Film Review: Requiem for a Dream (2000)


A film can leave a strong impression and yet end as disappointment. At least for the author of this review who often had to go against established opinion and consider many much lauded and talked about films to be not as great and groundbreaking as their reputation. One such example is Requiem for a Dream, 2000 drama which, in many ways, paved the way for the mainstream career of its director Darren Aronofsky.

The film is based on the novel by Hubert Selby Jr., writer known for uncompromisingly naturalistic and bleak depiction of the dark underbelly of American Dream and who also worked with Aronofsky on the script. The nominal protagonist, played by Ellen Burstyn, is Sara Goldfarb, middle-aged Jewish widow who lives in small Brooklyn apartment. Her son Harry (played by Jared Leto) visits her only in order to steal and pawn her television set so that he could finance his drug addiction. Sara always pawns her television set back because watching popular game show is the only remaining joy of her life, and she also dreams of becoming one of the contestants. Sara’s bleak life suddenly begins to change when she receives telephone call telling her that she is considered for participation in the show. She becomes obsessed with the idea of coming to the show in exactly the same dress she wore at Harry’s graduation. But to fit in, she must first lose weight, and the pills seem to be the quickest way. In the meantime, her son’s life also seem to turn for the better. Together with his friend and drug abusing partner Tyrone C. Love (played by Marlon Wayans) he managed to get large amount of drugs that would allow him to deal wholesale. Harry’s girlfriend Marion Silver (played by Jennifer Connelly) believes that she could open a boutique. However, all three would soon become hopelessly addicted to the merchandise that was supposed to make them wealthy. In the meantime, Sara’s abuse of diet pills and amphetamines would lead to devastating consequences even for her.

Requiem for a Dream is a very strong film and definitely isn’t to be recommended for more sensitive viewers. Its tone is very dark and gets even darker until the very end, when some in the audience might even need barfing bags. Although Hollywood in the past knew how to make bleak films, few are as radical in its bleakness like Aronofsky’s film. Aronofsky steers his characters, which begin as mildly dysfunctional, towards the path at the end of which awaits only humiliation and all kinds of mental and physical suffering, without any hope or recourse. Requiem for a Dream because of that looks quite refreshing, at least in comparison with other Hollywood films that are always able to put even the darkest stories in slightly optimistic package. Aronofsky also took uncompromising attitude towards his cast, asking his actors a lot of sacrifice in order to play their suffering characters as convincingly and authentically as possible. Ellen Burstyn had to wear heavy prosthetics every day on the set in order to play overweight character, but this sacrifice was worth it, because her Oscar-nominated performance is truly remarkable. Jared Leto and Marlon Wayans had to abstain from candies and sex in order to portray “cold turkey”. Jennifer Connelly also had to undress in front of cameras and some of those scenes were quite graphic. Marlon Wayans probably had the most interesting performance as an actor who made his fame as comedian and here trying and succeeding in broadening his range in difficult and thankless dramatic role, but his potential isn’t used fully.

Radical bleakness and very good acting, however, aren’t enough for Requiem for a Dream to justify its reputation of a masterpiece. Aronofsky, while making the film, probably concluded that the conventional narrative technique would make it last not longer than half an hour. So, feature film format had to be justified with “artsy fartsy” editing techniques which look too much like a MTV video and many of the shots are repeating. So, somewhere around half of running time, Requiem for a Dream becomes hopelessly overlong and sometimes even boring. To make things even worse, Aronofsky strays a bit from Selby’s naturalistic nihilism and tries to conveys something like a political message. At first, it is only trying to point towards American society’s hypocrisy that demonises drug addiction while praising consumerism and mass media, although those phenomena could be equally if not even more harmful. Near the end he also takes aim at Hollywood favourite targets – white racists and conservatives that fight drug addiction by oppressing instead of understanding the addicts. This approach might have worked, but it looks too simplistic compared with complexities of Soderbergh’s Traffic that dealt with the same subjects. General impression of the film is somewhat improved by Clint Mansell’s musical score, including “Lux Aeterna”, composition which would become one of the more popular pieces of film music in 21st Century. However, although impressive in some of its parts, Requiem for a Dream is still a disappointment as a whole.

RATING: 4/10 (+)

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The video i watched now is quite interesting
I feel like I should see the movie


The part about making the viewers vomit is what I didn't like very much, however, the plot catches my attention and that's why I would like to see it to know how the lives of these people who live among excesses end up.


Un film de leyenda y atemporal. Para mí, una de las joyas de la historia de este arte, del cine, de la fotografía y sobre todo, del modo pionero de grabar una película. Las tomas, la musicalización, el poder del guión, la fuerza de las imágenes y sobre todo, la maravillosa guía del director. Aronofsky es un genio total. Una dicha enorme ver una review de Requiem For a Dream aquí en este nicho.