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Requiem for a Dream



The best movie you’ll never want to see again.

There will be suffering and that’s not a spoiler, because the title is very clear: this is a requiem. A mass for the dead. The dream has died and we are going to put flowers on it.giphy-144

The movie shows the spiral down different types of drugs take a person in, and the viewer will go down with it. The moment an addiction starts, the dream dies and all that is left is the messy celebration we make of it. You’ve been invited here to mourn.

What is it about?

Through four different characters, the story shows – more that tells – how drugs feel very good at the beginning and very bad at the end. I know, not a shocking plot twist. Jared Letto plays a young man whose favorite actor I bet would be Jared Letto. He and his girlfriend, Jennifer Connelly, are addicted to heroin as well as cocaine (funnily, the word is never said in the movie), both which he also sells accompanied by his friend Marlon Wayans, a black young man who promised his mum that he will have a better life. If he had just believed in himself…

The movie navigates through the spam of a year and each season shows the deepening of their addiction, the evolution of -rather empty – interpersonal relations and the struggles to keep up the consumption. So the suffering will increase with each season. We will requiem harder and harder.

The fourth character is Letto’s mum, genially portrayed by Ellen Burstyn and for many, including myself, the real jewel of the movie. A sad and lonely, yet endearing housewive obsessed with television and sugar that starts to take pills to lose weight. Not gonna lie, that’s a bit too close to home.

The young people playing cool and destroying their future on the way is an old tale, but the suffering delusional mother trying to revive herself? That’s the real heartbreak for me. It was also the innovative point of this movie: how different drugs can have a similar downfall. Heroine, television, sugar and your boyfriend are all equally bad for your health.

Again, not a spoiler. The dream WILL die and the question we need to answer is: How? Only then we will cry for it.

This topic of things getting out of control is a recurring one in the director because he’s intense like that. Aronofsky is the responsible for bringing some of the weirdest movies ever: The fountain of life, Black Swam, and his most recent Madre. The horror. He’s a some sort of love/hate director but this man with the funny name is a producer, writer, probably would be the scariest lifestyle youtuber if he was one, he was engaged to Rachel Weisz and has a son with her and is also Jennifer Lawrence’s ex-boyfriend.

This movie is one of his first ones and definitely the best – no offense to Black Swan. It is an all you can eat buffet of visual effects and funky resources, it can easily be the typical class project where the teacher asked Aronofsky to use as many resources as possible, the main one being the hip/hop montage, but we’ll talk later about that. First…

Everything’s better with a little bit of context: CINEMA AND DRUGS

Drugs are present all over the history of cinema. And by that, I mean from the VERY beginning: in 1894 Thomas Edison made the “Chinese opium den”. A year later the Lumiere brothers made everyone ran away from a cinema in the first public screening in Paris. However, the way it has been portrayed has changed through history from positive to negative to neutral representations as reflections of social trends and laws.

*Funny one: “For his son”, is a 1912 film about a father that makes a drink with cocaine in it for his son. Is it Coca Cola? Answer yourself.

The views went from the permissive 30’s to non-existent due to censorship in the 40’s to go incredibly bananas in the 70’s. It met the greatest presence from the 90’s when someone asked why so many young people were dying and drugs really became a global social issue. Requiem is definitely at the core of that trend.

Funnily, heroin is one of the least abused drugs in the US but is heavily featured in cinema: 153 movies between 1990 and 2010. It is also wrong, as it is mostly depicted injected when the majority of addicts take it another way. This drug comes from morphine and one of its main reasons of consumption is the emotional intensity it generates. As I said, it will make you feel good but then it will make you fat or something.

I made a super small sum up, but you can check out this great infographic of the history of drugs in cinema by The New York Film Academy. Also according to the NYFA, drugs have been used as a plot device or as the heart of the story to explore the effects in its characters.

  • There are movies WITH drugs in it: Wolf of Wall Street, Pulp Fiction of Scarface.
  • There are movies ABOUT drugs: Trainspotting or Clockwork Orange
  • And there are movies that ARE drugs: Star Wars, Harry Potter, Devil Wears Prada (insert your own in here).

It is also used as humor. Which is SO confusing. Because if they show that a little bit of drugs is fun but other movies say it’s fun until they are not… Cinema, I need answers. Does true drug exist or not?

Movies can’t answer that, how stupid. The only thing they do is take part of that social debate. Cinema can really take it to the extreme to show its effects and psychology in all cruelness to illustrate the dangers of addiction to young generations. No health campaign can do what Requiem for a Dream does. Cinema has the power to mirror society and scare the hell out of us.

What’s so special about Requiem then? Easy, THE CINEMATOGRAPHY

As the need to talk about drugs was present from the beginning so it was quite clear that, when representing drugs effects, to trust in the quality of acting was simply not going to cut it. The technique was gonna have to be there too and the ways to portray the effects of drugs have been different in many movies. For example, in the 1915’s film, “The madness of Dr. Tube”, by Abel Gance’s, the effect of a drug administered to a group of people was done by shooting the scenes reflected on a distorting mirror of a fair.

In Requiem, Aronofsky uses a much more simple but equally effective technique: the hip-hop montage. This type of editing is a quick sequence of a lot of images or actions shown in fast motion. To compare: a normal movie has from 400 to 600 cuts. Requiem has more than 2000. It’s dizzy.

It also plays with the diegetic and non-diegetic sound paring images that do not match with what we are listening to. That way it creates a confusion between what we see and what we hear. The reality and how we perceive it. Get it? Like real life drug addicts!!!!!!!!!!!

But this is not only it. As I said before, this movie is Sephora for cinema effects.

  • Lengthy over the shoulders shots to change from objective observation – you rich white person judging these people – towards subjective perception of how the world is really harder for some.
  • and snorricam (or chest cam): a camera device attached to the body of the actor
    because why watching pain from afar when it can be RIGHT THERE IN YOUR FACE. It is beautifully used in the most intense moments of each character, the spot in their story when their destiny is going to change forever and you will go: oh shit.giphy-145
  • ALL types of shots. From general to extremely detailed ones: from the sea to the iconic eye that is part of the cover of the movie.
  • Super accentuated sounds. Background or detail noise will be high to confuse your perception.
  • Split screens: one of my favorite ones. While normally the split screen is used to compare two realities, or different actions taking part at the same time, here is used in the same scene by characters one next to the other to show the disconnected relations between them. In a scene of intimacy, he uses a resource we associate with distance.

    Captura de pantalla 2018-04-10 a las 19.15.15

    See what he did there? They are together but they are not. Modern dating life.

  • Special effects as moving furniture or a talking refrigerator that portrays the mind games and fantasies, especially in the story of the mother, some of which could be considered comedy resources if her story wasn’t so damned heartbreaking and oh my god, Sarah. WHY.
  • Funky camera angles because we are all mad in Wonderland.200w-3.gif
  • It fades to white instead of black for emphasis. Or for fun, who knows. At this point, why not?
  • Filmed in 16 mm, which, compared to what I explained has no importance at all, but it gives that grainy texture.

Only for this reasons, this movie is worth watching.

If you need another reason: the music.

Now, when should you watch this movie?

On a Thursday around 19 pm. Let me explain. As I and the title have explained before after watching this movie you will be a little bit less happy. So, a middle of the weekday is cool because you have gone through the worst part and have the weekend ahead of you to get happier. Also, watching this movie will make you feel intellectual AF and you can brag about it with your friends because that is a super intense experience you have gone through and a gin tonic definitely tastes better when you discuss how unhappy other people are. Also do it in the afternoon, because during the day would be such a waste but still leave a few hours in between the movie and sleep to either reflect on it, beg so that it doesn’t happen to you or meet someone and try to find some other dream to keep living for.

Have you seen it already? Keep Reading because I have some THOUGHTS.

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