Starring: Ellen Burstyn, Jared Leto
Director: Darren Aronofsky
REQUIEM for a Dream is a grim title. The film lives up to this title, a pessimistic elegy for the drug-shattered dreams of some ordinary people.
This is not a film for relaxing enjoyment. Many audiences will find the going too tough, too close to the bone – or, perhaps, far removed from their everyday experience. It is a film of desperation.
Some of us live neat and tidy lives. Others of us can be thrust into the depths – loneliness, betrayals of relationships, accidents, illness, relations with drug addictions, suicide. A film like Requiem for a Dream puts it all on the screen, challenging us emotionally as we share the despairs of trapped people.
The characters are more ordinary, people next door. And that makes it harder for us as well as more challenging.
The central character of this film, Sara Goldfarb, brilliantly played by Ellen Burstyn, is a widow nearing 70 who loves watching a hyped television personality with a self-help show. She dreams of appearing on it. When the letter comes, she begins to diet to fit into the red dress she wants to wear when she goes before the cameras and when everyone will love her. A mercenary and callous doctor prescribes a course of pills which ultimately control her, leading to breakdown and shock treatment. This film is an indictment of the drug culture and dependency of older citizens.
Sara’s son, Harry (Jared Leto), has graduated from college but has become a heroin addict, along with his friend, Tyrone. They begin to deal to make money to start a dress shop for Harry’s friend, Marian, also an addict. Their lives also collapse over a period of six months into prison, prostitution, illness and gangrenously infected limbs. The cautionary tale is frightening.
The director uses a number of cinematic techniques – colour and black and white photography, split screen, hallucination and dream sequences to try to communicate the mixture of reality and unreality in these people’s tormented lives. There is also a powerful musical score, a blend of the classical and the contemporary beat.
This is a well-made film, a specialist film, one probably best discussed and related to our own social problems and the government, Church and society agencies who struggle to deal with them.