Drugs are bad, mmmkay? It’s an old message but, as evidenced in ‘Traffic’, it’s still relevant in an ever downward-spiralling drugs-soaked culture. ‘Requiem for a Dream’ complements a film like ‘Traffic’ perfectly… whereas ‘Traffic’ showed how people on different levels of society attempt to deal with the ‘war on drugs’, ‘Requiem for a Dream’ shows the effect of drugs in a more personal and familial way.
The story focuses on four related characters, tracing their lives from Summer through to Winter, and the way their chosen drug fucks with them through this time. It’s not just about the physical affects that drugs can have on a body, but it also shows (rather graphically) the way drugs can alter perception.
The performances are all first rate. One that particularly stands out is Ellen Burstyn as the diet-pill addicted Sara. Never have I seen a more vivid and realistic transformation, and understood what drives someone to such a fate. What makes this film so indelible though is the relation of the direction to it’s subject matter – no less than 100 digital shots were created for this film, some of which are the most stunning ever to be committed to celluloid. One that sticks in my head is a scene showing someone’s actions over a long amount of time sped-up, and then the camera slowing panning away…
This is a tour-de-force of a small and pathetic environment, the director’s (Darren Aranofsky, who also directed the acclaimed ‘Pi’) innovative flourishes don’t let up and never seem unnatural. There is a sense of grandeur involved here that hammers home the scars inflicted on these lives and the journey will leave you anything but flippant to the subject matter.
TRIVIA: Burstyn was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance here but was beaten by Julia Roberts (for ‘Erin Brockavich’). A robbery if ever I saw one.