Visual Literacy

Requiem for a Dream

Posted on: October 11, 2009


Director/Cinematographer: Darren Aronofsky

It’s hard for me to pick a favorite film; I like so many, but my absolute favorites change all the time depending on my mood or what is going on in my life at the moment. As of this second, my favorite movie is Requiem for a Dream. Made in 2000, it stars Ellen Burstyn, Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly, and Marlon Wayans. It chronicles the lives of four people living in Brooklyn, and how they deal with their addictions. Sara Goldfarb (Burstyn) takes diet pills to lose weight after learning that she will be appearing on television. Her son Harry (Leto), and his friend Tyrone (Wayans) are heroin-addicted drug dealers who dream of making it big. Marion (Connelly), Harry’s girlfriend, is addicted to cocaine. All four have big ambitions, but ultimately fail after they succumb to their addictions.

I have never seen a more disturbing film in my life. Rather than portray a glamorized or dulled depiction of the never-ending cycle of addiction, Aronofsky uses vivid and sometimes shocking images to chronicle the lives of his characters. It’s the American dream: you can never be too rich or too thin, and all four characters are sucked into the glitz and glamour of the “good life”. You feel some sympathy for the characters as they make their descent, but what is most heartbreaking is watching how amazing relationships are all torn apart because of their dependance on drugs.

The audience is there to witness as each character gets sucked down further and further. Sara begins to hallucinate from the “uppers” her doctor has given her to lose weight. Her hallucinations get progressively worse, and she ultimately is admitted to a mental institution. After refusing treatment, she undergoes electroshock therapy, and is reduced to just a shell of her former self. Harry and Tyrone dream of making to the big-time drug scene, but after a drug deal goes bad, they find themselves without money or drugs. Now without any means to support her drug habit, Marion lashes out at Harry, and turns to prostitution. Harry and Tyrone decide to go to Florida, hoping to score enough drugs to make a profit, but the growing black mass on Harry’s arm from injecting throws an obstacle in their path. After going to the hospital, both men are arrested. Harry’s arm gets so bad that it has to be amputated, and he is not expected to live. In the end, none of the characters are able to live up to their dreams of grandeur, and their lives are destroyed.


1 Response to "Requiem for a Dream"

This movie does look really disturbing but at the same time it looks like it portrays its message in a very successful and unique way. The trailer does a great job of pulling me in and making me want to see the movie. I feel like this film would be one that would be very thought provoking and would stay with me for a while after watching it. Its interesting that an older woman is trying all these ways to lose weight – that kind of person its not who one usually pictures when they think about someone trying to get thin. It shows that the shallowness of modern society pervades every niche of society. I wonder what kind of reviews this film received. I will definitely check it out.

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