The world simply wasn’t ready for a movie like this. While everyone was hyped about the new century, little-known director Darren Aronofsky was working with author Hubert Selby Jr. to bring his 1968 novel to life. Requiem for a Dream is a thought-provoking psychological drama about the lives of a couple of addicts. We follow them as their addiction starts pushing them ever so further into the deepest corners of human existence. The movie is quite visceral and at times difficult to watch. However, it is so fucking necessary.
It features fast-pacing, snappy editing, an engaging story, and a short running time of just ninety minutes. This isn’t some preachy and melodramatic epic you might’ve seen before. No sir, this is a movie that simplified complex issues offering them to the viewer for further exploration. And it’s up to you how far you want to take this whole thing. You can surf on the surface and watch the lives of people so different and yet so similar to ours. This can be both a fascinating and entertaining experience. Or you can delve deeper into the story, characters, situations, and further implications of all of them.
Requiem for a Dream is one of the few movies exploring addiction as such. Sure, we will be focusing on a certain type of addiction, a drug addiction, but others are here as well. What’s also present is the examination of our society through the eyes of our protagonists. This cruel, unforgiving, and still very much tribal society discarding people in need and their inferior genetic material. A society warped by the tribal system of values and its extension, capitalism. A society where a person is reduced to a commodity and where mental health is just a passing afterthought. And also a society which encourages dreamers but only if they’re successful and useful dreamers.
I know I’m being a bit harsh right now but this is a subject(s) I feel passionate about. You don’t have to be an addict to feel what these people feel. Behind every one of their actions, you can find motives that can be applied to many other things. To see a human being reduced to a single objective operating in our “normal” world is more of an examination of that world than of that single individual. The movie also features a lot of subtle and bizarre humor. Humor which appears naturally from surreal situations our characters find themselves in.
I will skip the usual summary as the story is as great as this one needs to be organically experienced. The four people we will be following get into all kinds of strange situations which progressively get worse. And the ending is as tragic as it is sobering and poetic. While we had some movies about drugs and addiction in the past, Requiem for a Dream is probably the best one I have ever seen. I mean, even nineties masterpieces like Trainspotting and Kids are no match for the King.
As someone who has dabbled in a drug or two, I was almost paralyzed while watching this movie for the first time. To think about how easily my life could’ve turned out much differently was truly frightening. However, there’s one thing that caught my attention even more. And that’s the comparison between compulsive eating and drug abuse. Both of these things are addictions and yet our society treats them very differently. And, more importantly, it treats the users or should I say abusers, differently.
The cast of Requiem for a Dream did one hell of a job. Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly, and especially Marlon Wayans all surprised me with their committed and honest performances. Connelly in that choker was fucking beautiful. I also shouldn’t forget to mention Ellen Burstyn. And, of course, Darren motherfucking Aronofsky. The man is a fucking genius and his next two movies, The Fountain and The Wrestler, proved that. I can’t wait to see his next movie. If you’re looking for movies like Requiem for a Dream, I suggest you check out Spun. It features a similar story and editing style only it’s a bit more upbeat.
Finally, if I may offer a few words of advice to anyone struggling with any kind of addiction, here’s what I think about that subject. Especially in regard to drug addiction. Drug addiction is a product of our society and our way of living. It is inextricably linked to our perception of ourselves, other people, and the world around us. To push through all this bullshit is quite difficult but still very much doable. In addition to “regular solutions and programs”, I would also like to add concepts from Eastern philosophies.
I’m talking about the notion that you’re not your thoughts and you’re not your feelings. The complete separation from our society and its values and thus ourselves and the personas that emerged from such conditions. If there’s no persona, there can be no addiction. Meditation is one of the practices that can help you achieve this state. Once you’ve mastered it, you can slowly begin to put into perspective everything that has happened to you.
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Writers: Hubert Selby Jr., Darren Aronofsky
Cast: Ellen Burstyn, Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly, Marlon Wayans, Christopher McDonald
Fun Stuff: Jared Leto and Marlon Wayans had to abstain from sex and sugar for thirty days in order to get a glimpse of what it’s like to be strung out.