Here’s the first installment of the Movie Bucket List Series! It’s actually #6 in the grand scale of things because of the 5 movies I watched last summer, but I’m starting fresh!
I remember first hearing of the 2000 Darren Aronofsky film in ninth grade. It was freshman health class, and we had been assigned groups to make films about the negative effects of various drugs. My group was given heroin, and our film had all of the bad acting and amusing props that you would expect from a bunch of 15 year olds, but we also had a clip from this film that depicted the process of heroin intake. The clip is made up of fast cuts and is used over and over again in the film and is one of the most famous sequences from the feature. We got an A on our project, and while I like to believe it’s because of our superb acting, I have a sneaking suspicion that Aronofsky’s handiwork played a role in helping the clarity of our video.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the story of Requiem for a Dream, it centers around various people struggling with addiction. Harry Goldfarb (Jared Leto) is a heroin addict along with his girlfriend Marion (Jennifer Connelly) and his friend Tyrone (Marlon Wayans). The three of them enter the drug trade hoping to make enough money to eventually follow their dreams. They end up losing more money than they gain and are forced into challenging situations in order to receive their drug fix. Meanwhile, Harry’s mother Sara Goldfarb (Ellen Burstyn), a lonely widow who receives an invitation onto her favorite TV show, becomes addicted to prescription weight-loss pills. Each character is driven to their limit, culminating in misery for all.
I found the Sara Goldfarb story to be the most intriguing. While the Harry & Friends chronicle was well-done and interesting in its own right, drugs are an obvious subject for a film about addiction. Placing it next to Sara’s story, however, provides an entirely different view on the topic. Mrs. Goldfarb’s story shows her vulnerability as a person searching for the self she used to be, and brings a fresh perspective to the connotation of the word “addiction.” While her search is futile, the slow transformation and disintegration of her mental and physical state is perfectly captured by Aronofsky, coupled with an amazing performance by Burstyn.
The final sequence of the film shows the all of the characters curling up into the fetal position, completely defeated. It was a potent moment, as none of the characters got fulfilled happiness. While I love when everything works out for the characters that I’m rooting for, it’s refreshing to see films that make the realistic choice of suffering, especially in stories like this where the characters are so far gone, when bailing them out would be completely disconnected from reality.
Requiem for a Dream can be difficult to watch at times. The depictions are realistic portrayals of life straddled with addiction. But at its core, its about people struggling to grasp life as it falls through their hands. We all have different vices and at times, they get the best of us. Relativity is important for films to possess because it provides a thread between the character’s universe and our own. It’s hard to relate overtly to the story, but when it’s broken down like this it’s easier to see how it connects to us. The basic simplicity, I think, is why the film is so powerful.