Saturday, 18 December 2010

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Requiem for a Dream [Review]


Opinion: A

Truly one of the most disturbing films possibly made in the past couple of decades, this well-crafted powerful film that introduced a few new film-making techniques has influenced subsequent films. One of the revolutionary films in cinema history, this is one hell of an experience to sit through that will induce sensations of agonising depression.


The film charts three seasons in the lives of Sara Goldfarb (Ellen Burstyn), her son Harry (Jared Leto), Harry’s girlfriend Marion Silver (Jennifer Connelly), and Harry’s friend Tyrone C. Love (Marlon Wayans). Each character is ultimately destroyed by addiction and self-delusion.

**May contain spoilers**

Sara is a lonely aged woman without her husband living in a small apartment with her estranged son Harry, who has been shifty and unpredictable towards his mother due to his drug addiction. The gap between them, well-established by the clever use of split-screens, widens through frequent episodes of heated rash arguments with Harry pushing his mother's television set to cash it for an addiction fix.

Sara never fails to redeem it back everytime.

Sara is addicted to this television game show where every episode features a winner, she highly regards it in her life without much company imprisoned in her apartment everyday. One day she receives a false hope call that instills hope in Sara that she will be appearing on television, therefore she is set on slimming down so as to be able to attend in an old red dress that she can no longer slip into.

Harry and his girlfriend Marion wants to set up a fashion boutique for Marion to develop and capitalise her designs, so they tap into the idea of conducting illegal drug trade on the streets with the aid of Harry's friend Tyrone. Tyrone also wishes to emerge as someone success in order to make his mother proud, as hinted during a childhood flashback.

What they do not realise is the danger of practicing drug trade as junkies.

The drug use sequences are achieved via a series of rapid edits, visually suggesting how the ecstasy comes and goes before the urge for another fix soon lingers. Very effective use of montage editing here.

It begins during a slow peaceful Summer where everything seems to be alright, all the dreams of each of the four characters are specified on the table waiting to be realised.

Then comes Fall, a shorter season than Summer.


Affairs are starting to take on a brisk pace as everything begins to crumble with consequences confronting them at an alarming exponential rate. The beginning of the Fall chapter starts with Tyrone finding himself in the middle of a newly waged drug gang violence. Their drug business takes a tumble as it drastically reduces their coffers, a main source of maintaining their lifestyle sustained by drug use.

Conflicts between characters start surfacing and their relationships begin to be shattered under the pressure of woes surrounding them. This is further aided by their drug addiction that highly affects their rationality and induces irresponsible demeanours.

Sara at the same time is not contended with her progress and is edgy over the never arriving news of when she will appear on television. Hopeful that the news will eventually arrive in her letterbox, she scarily increases her dosage of slimming pills (that are really just drugs) and begins to suffer from haunting hallucinations.

Each of them are so cooped up with their own issues that they've been left alone to deal with their own. Both Sara and Harry never got to know about each other's plight, which is really sad these days because during times like these all you really need is someone there for support.

Then comes Winter, a much quicker chapter of agony.


Sara is reduced to a pitiful body of unsound sanity, where we get to see her superb performance that draws in a lot of sympathy for her as well as award season recognition. The role of Sara is really a demanding and challenging one where all self-preserving pride and ego will be stripped down to the bare minimum, degenerating one's image to the fullest.

Harry finds physical pain from the non-sterile injections he has been subjecting his arm to, while Marion treads on a thin barrier between dignity and her overwhelming drug addiction. They are both stranded alone to deal with their own problems ever since the money and heroine supply ran dry.

Tyrone is possibly the best soul amongst all, depicted as the one who offers his help till the very end. Nevertheless, he suffers from his withdrawal symptoms in jail as he also receives persecution from racist prison guards.

**End of potential spoilers**

Every character's dreams started off as something hopeful and desirable to achieve, but in the midst of it all, they've lost their souls to the temptations of their own addiction and fell from grace. This makes an excellent case study for teenagers who are thinking of drug use as cool.

The Winter chapter is really a very brutal rapid piece-together of all the characters' agony and feels like an extended nightmare that one can never wake up from. The fast montage editing cuts minor pieces of each of their plight together to form a collection of misery that is very hard to swallow, where nothing is sugar-coated to please the audience.

It is meant to disturb and unsettle us.

The cast ensemble, though intended to be isolated in the film, synergises into a powerful performance as a whole. Special mention goes to Ellen Burstyn with her incredible rendition of Sara's transformation, as well as Jennifer Connelly for partaking such a risky role that involves prostitution and lesbian orgy shows.

Besides the commendable direction by Darren Aronofsky (who's currently in the award season limelight with his new film "Black Swan") and the pwoerful editing by Jay Rabinowitz, the camera work (SnorriCam) in this production helps to bring out the abyss world that the characters reside within. Not to forget the tragic beautiful score that Clint Mansell has composed, you might have heard the theme in the trailer of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.

If you are willing to subject yourself to degenerating agony, you will witness one of the best film-making in modern film history. At the end of the show, I find myself having this passive urge to puke.

It's really an extreme love/hate affair.


2 comments:

  1. Ollo! ;D

    what movie making program u use ? :)

    I'm gonna make another video themed Christmas ;D
    Gonna post the teaser Poster soon... =D

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hey JEMSEN, depending on situation, I'm either on Final Cut Pro or just the basic iMovie.

    Can't wait to see your Christmas project ;)

    ReplyDelete

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