Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Reqiuem for a Dream (2000)

Requiem for a Dream (2000)
Requiem for a Dream, every so often you just come across a movie that blows you away, just gets you completely off guard and leaves you speechless. At first I sat there briskly, looking at this film seeing only a pretentious mess, but the ending just blew me away, and then I managed to read a message of love from the girl I love, only problem it was to another guy. It was then I realised how powerful this film is, although it has nothing to do with my situation, it has just hit me so hard. Requiem for a Dream is just a tragic story, so horrible to see the effects of drugs on the group of people it follows, although at the same time it is a complete misfire. Requiem for a Dream is riddled with faults that I was willing to pass this as pretentious and prepare for some controversy, but it gave me a feeling like no other. I have been left with such a fulfilling feeling, not sadness, nor was I euphoric.
The lovers

The plot follows a mother, her son, his girlfriend and his friend. The mother, Sarah Goldfarb (Ellen Burstyn), a sad lonely old woman who watches this show – I am not exactly sure what it is game show/self -help programme – anyhow she is addicted to the show.   Her life seems dull as she gets the odd visit from her junkie son Harry (Jared Leto) and his visits are not usually pleasant. Although she gets a call saying that she will be a contestant for the show she loves so dearly, and her life is revitalised and she suddenly has meaning to her life. So apart from having an extra motivation, she tries to fit in her old red dress of great sentimental value, only to see she does not fit in her proudest moment. That red dress is what she’s going to wear on TV, so a friend suggests these pills a doctor prescribes to help her fit in the dress, the problem is she starts to get addicted, and cannot stop.
The other story follows Harry, his girlfriend Marion (Jennifer Connelly) and Tyrone (Marlon Wayans). They are all Heroin addicts and enter the life of the drug trade attempting to get the good life. Unfortunately, they manage to overlook some grim events by dreaming of their happy future together.  The group only go from worse to worse after their string of luck, just ending in tragedy.
There was something odd about this movie. I was about to throw this away into the bin of over-rated trite like I have done with a few others. The plot was very cloudy, the one of Sarah was well made, but the one following Harry was confusing and never caught your attention. I could not go into to a great detail of what happened, because it never seemed to be effective in the parts it needed to be, or never gave you a clear picture on what was happening. Although Harry’s story is filled with such effective tragedy, I could sit here telling you how it is unbalanced and sketchily executed it all is, yet in the end I was given a feeling like no other film. Requiem for a Dream is the closest I have gotten to the feeling of when I first watched Donnie Darko, which is the single best movie experience I have ever had.
The story Sarah on the other hand was excellently executed. I think with more development her story itself could have made whole movie, although Requiem for a Dream goes for a broader look upon the consequences of drug abuse, instead of restricting itself to the one instance.   

It of course can look lovely
The acting on a whole was odd. With the exception of Ellen Burstyn, the acting is mediocre; they never seem to rise above anything great, due to low character development. Although it is seemingly bad acting at the beginning, as you grow attached to the characters, they seem to get better and they never do particularly bad. One of the main problems I found with the story of Harry is there is a lack of empathy. You know they are going through difficult times, but due to the confusion, you never feel for them until the ending, where the empathy-meter goes through the roof. I think probably my main problem with the film stopping it from becoming one of my favourites is the characters never get grounded and focused until the ending, which is why I have grown so fond of it in the last thirty-odd minutes.
Ellen Burstyn’s performance on the other hand is something that keeps you going through the whole film. Her performance at first is placid; you picture her as just the old woman who cannot really act. To a degree, it is true; she has a strange demeanour about herself that makes her realistic. As the movie progresses she deals with the difficult material she is given well and perhaps her only problem is giving the senile act too early in the film, but when the senile is needed, she perfects it.

Darren Aronofsky’s direction is highly experimental. He is a fan of the “Hip Hop Montage”, which is fast editing and shot cuts. While the average movie has about 600-700 cuts, Requiem for a Dream, being a reasonably short movie has over 2000. Darren at sometimes can be pretentious, but the direction is without a doubt the most powerful tool Requiem for a Dream has; it is also has some of the most distinctive direction I have ever seen. He also uses a double screen technique where the screen would show two separate things happening, often from different perspectives of one occurrence. While the direction can be off-putting at times, being perhaps too complex for the common audience viewer, it is effective, as you will get in a film. The tight editing also keeps your mind stimulated, keeping you interested in boring moments, but helps this tragic story come to life. Unfortunately, due to the low-budget and odd direction, Requiem does miss out on great visual, while myself am not a visual junkie, movies like this really can add an extra punch with great visuals. So at times, you could say we have highly experimental and interesting cinemaphotography, opposed to attractive cinema photography. In the end, though all this rustic work Aronofsky loves to do can be a visual letdown, Requiem manages to pays off as one of the most effective films I have ever seen.

Some direction oddities
Overall, I could sit here all day listing the problems with this movie, Requiem for a Dream itself is as much as a tragedy as the story is portrays. Yet to be left speechless, getting a similar feeling to which I got from my first viewing of Donnie Darko, you know this film matters. The acting is not perfect, the plot is cloudy and it can be an eye sore; although it has such a powerful ending, moral and direction like no other movie, you can easily overlook all these problems. Requiem for a Dream successfully demonizes addiction, but also gives a powerful and realistic tale to send a chill down a spine.


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