Continuing my trend on being way ahead on the cultural sphere, I am reviewing a film I have never seen before. It is always good to catch up on films that captured a moment in their cultural zeitgeist and were popular at that moment in time; and to see if it maintains and has withstood.
Having come across Trainspotting on the occasion of its 20th anniversary it is interesting to encounter Requiem for a Dream, the acclaimed Darren Aronofsky film of 2000 that garnered much critical attention and Oscar buzz.
The reason the film got so much attention was that it has that independent feel that was paramount at that moment led by the Weinsteins bankrolling Steven Soderbergh and the like. Aronofsky fitted into this with his debut feature Pi, an off the wall, black and white film that wore its intelligence proudly.
In Requiem though he takes an adaptation of a Hubert Selby Jr novel and makes a hellish journey of drug addict's total dependency on drugs, how it changes people, how they become different and how those drugs become the only important thing in life - more than love, family and personal health.
Sara Goldfrab (Ellen Burstyn) is a lonely widow who is somewhat estranged from her only son Harry (Jared Leto), a drug addict along with his girlfriend Marion (Jennifer Connolly) and best friend Tyrone (Marlon Wayans).
Aronofsky's style in this film is to film extreme close-ups of his cast experiencing the highs of the drugs being taken, it requires the actors to be shot with bags under their eyes and not look glamorous. Burstyn deserves special credit (she lost to Julia Roberts for Best Actress at Oscars for Erin Brockovich) for simply deteoriating on screen - her character is the most intriguing as Sara makes you wonder, did she fake that phone call and send herself that application form because of her loneliness and the need to belong with the other women in her apartment building.
As the film proceeds and builds up to the finale where nobody gets what they wants and everyone loses out, the director cranks up the editing and the soundtrack creating a visual language where not a lot is said but everything shown speaks volumes to us. The editing is cut of more drug sachets being opened, cut, snorted as characters wince, scream and shout.
The film is a cruel and hard watch by the end and yet its the sort of film that all children aged 15-18 should watch as an educational tool to combat drug use; the message is loud and clear. You end up down and out, injured, mad and ultimately alone.
The acting is superb (bar Leto's awful accent) and the music by Clint Mansell is iconic to the point of being the most memorable facet of the film.
Required viewing but not necessarily essential.