This is one hell of a bleak film, but as long as you can watch it (some people I know couldn’t sit through it), it is an absolute masterpiece. It’s an adaption of a book by Hubert Selby Jr. about the various addictions of four people (an elderly widow, her son, his girlfriend and his best friend) , be they to drugs, television, or even the hope of a better tomorrow, in Brooklyn, New York. So far, so Trainspotting you might think. However, the two films are actually very different, not least in terms of visual style. In this aspect, Requiem For A Dream is streets ahead of it’s British counterpart. The director Darren Aronofsky, a native of Brooklyn himself, has done a first class job here, using a variety of different techniques, including split screens, time lapse photography and speeded up montages. In the commentary on the DVD, he said he wanted to avoid making an MTV-style film, but that’s what it looks like. This is by no means a criticism, though, the film looks absolutely fantastic, but I see no sense in denying its style.
As well as the superb cinematography, the film also contains some superb performances from its four stars Jared Leto, Ellen Burstyn, Jennifer Connolly and Marlon Wayans. Indeed, Burstyn was nominated for the Best Actress Oscar, though she didn’t win. It is also nice to see Leto in a role where he has more to do than look handsome.
This film is not one to watch when you are feeling a bit down, as it is not in the least bit cheery. I promise it will make you feel worse, as it is heartbreakingly sad to see the lives of the protagonists completely unravelling before their eyes, whilst they keep believing things are soon going to get better. Things don’t get better, they reach rock bottom for all of the characters. No redemption, no happy ending, just one of the best films of the last ten years. Absolutely essential.