Sunday, 30 September 2012

Requiem for a Dream (2000)

Darren Aronofsky might not be the best technical director, he's no Spielberg, but he is incredibly talented in crafting powerfully moving emotional pieces. Aronofsky will make you feel something, whether it's the disillusioning power of love in The Fountain, pity for a man who is clinging to a life he has long outgrown in The Wrestler, the detrimental effects of chasing a perfection you don't even want in Black Swan, or the soul crushing depression of addiction in Requiem for a Dream.

Requiem really is the best traumatic film I've seen. It's a well produced piece of work, but you might be a little less than satisfied when the credits roll. Across the Summer, Fall and Winter of a particular year four people find themselves in the grips of drug addiction for a number of reasons. Three heroin junkies (Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly and Marlon Wayans) find themselves going from user to dealers in the hopes of elevating themselves from their respective gutters and becoming respectable people, only to find themselves trapped by more than getting their next fix. Across town, the mother of Harry (Leto), played by Ellen Burstyn, battles a weight-loss triggered amphetamine dependence. The four fall victim to a myriad of different effects of a hard drug habit, from the disgusting physical transformations, through the degrading personal sacrifices to the disturbing psychological disruptions caused by copious amounts of body chemistry altering substances.

Aronofsky takes some quite brave steps with regards to structure and how the film plays out. A frantic, MTV style of editing lends itself to montages made up of little more than snapshots well, giving the drug and psychosis induced hazes and hallucinations a jarringly real sense of what a bad trip can be like. Heavily stylised, many scenes take place with different parts of the shot playing out at different speeds, with lenses that distort and nauseate at times. Clearly split up into three arcs, the summer, fall and winter, it's pretty easy to see where the fates of the central characters ultimately lie, and if you've been paying attention it should come as no surprise that Aronofsky doesn't follow the typical mold where a big problem appears about 2/3s of the way through the film and the final third is where everything is made okay with the world again. A very clear progression makes itself known pretty early on, and despite how much you want it to stop, it continues on all the way to the anti-hollywood finale.

If you're a fan of authentic, frenetic filmmaking and don't mind feeling a little bit blue absolutely terrible at the end, Requiem for a Dream has to go on the 'Must Watch' list. Chances are it'll only be there once though.

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