Requiem for a Dream

Dir: Darren Aronofsky, 2000. Starring: Ellen Burstyn, Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly, Marlon Wayans. Drama.
Requiem for a Dream

Requiem for a Dream is the story of lives on the downturn, spiraling into desperation and addiction.

Based on the novel by American writer Hubert Shelby Jr. (Last Exit to Brooklyn), Requiem is about the struggle of vice in the existence of four people. Aronofsky writes a tight and interesting screen adaptation with a strange timelessness, keeping much of the slang used decades before. Look for a great cameo by Shelby as a sadistic white-trash prison guard.

Darren Aronofsky’s direction is absolutely flawless in this film. The way he is able to weave sights and sounds into Requiem for a Dream is so well designed that it’s hard to believe it was only his second feature. Like an orchestra, Aronofsky directs the actors, visual style, and the use of sound to create beautiful, if not terribly depressing music. From the sounds of instruments tuning up at the beginning to the menacing and intense climax, Aronofsky weaves a true cinematic masterpiece.

Matthew Libatique’s cinematography is incredibly moody and stylistically expressive. The color palette, lighting and composition choices make for one of the best looking films in the last twenty-five years. Libatique makes every use of the detailed production design and art direction.

The editing by Jay Rabinowitz is absolutely brilliant—finding perfect cuts throughout to tie these four lives together, very often in sync with Mansell’s timeless score. He makes fantastic use of split-screens, as well as the manipulation of film speed.

Clint Mansdell’s music composition, performed by the Kronos Quartet, is perhaps my favorite all time film score. It is unnerving, deeply moving and fits the film’s mood and action like a glove.

Screen legend Ellen Burstyn (W.) delivers perhaps the best performance of her career, if not one that ranks at the top of all-time performances by a lead actress. As “Sara Goldfarb,” a lonely widow who loves her TV, Burstyn is magnetic and heartbreaking. She plays “Sara” with such complete fallible humanity that many of her scenes can lead to tears. Nominated for an Academy Award for her role, I still think Burstyn should have claimed that prize.

Jared Leto (Lord of War) plays “Harry”—a dreamer with two things fueling his life: his love for his girl, “Marion” (Connelly), and his love of heroin. With his boyish good looks, Leto plays the character with a certain innocence, although far from naïve.

Oscar-Winner Jennifer Connelly (A Beautiful Mind) plays “Marion,” a rich girl who enjoys slumming with junkies. Connelly is an actress who can step into almost any role and provide a solid turn. This film offers her one of the better characters and put her back on top of the Hollywood map.

Marlon Wayans (Scary Movie) is the biggest surprise of the film, turning in a dramatic performance far outside his public expectations as a mainstream comedian. As “Tyrone,” he is the film’s moral compass and joker, who tragically pays for it.

In addition, Christopher McDonald (Thelma & Louise) plays “Tabby Tibbons,” a TV inspirational speaker, with such manic energy that it becomes almost frightening.

Requiem for a Dream is a film that will undeniably affect you—perhaps even shake you to the core. It’s a film that is not easy to digest, but well worth the time.


Requiem for a Dream was nominated for one Oscar: Best Actress (Ellen Burstyn).

Posted by:
Seamus Smith
Jul 3, 2009 2:55pm
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