Requiem for A Dream – Drugs, Addiction and Obsession

Darren Aronofsky’s characters are psychopaths. Perfectionist who devote their body and soul to a single goal. They remain fixated, neglecting what their lust for achievement has to their loved ones or even to themselves. In Pi, we saw the lengths crazed mathematician Max Cohen went to unravelling the secrets behind a 216 digit number that may not have any worldly significance at all.

Requiem for a Dream, Aronofsky’s second film, explores the mindset of three addicts who all go extreme lengths to grasp that one thing in life that’ll make them happy, or at least fill that empty void. These characters, whether they wish to lose weight, become wealthy, or score some heroin, absolutely destroy their lives to do so.

An Aronofsky film is a very subjective experience and while he does not entirely intend for an empathetic connection to be made, he is very keen on lunging viewers into the minds of his unstable characters. In Requiem, he effectively positions us into the mental of the obsessed and fiend through editing.

Battle Against the Fridge

When retiree Sara Goldfarb is randomly selected to be contestant on a game show, she becomes absolutely obsessed with her body image to assure she looks flawless for her impending TV appearance.

Split screen editing typically can come off as extremely cheesy (e.g. Ang Lee’s Incredible Hulk) but on the rare occasion, such as in 500 Days of Summer or Requiem for A Dream like in this example, it’s used effectively.

Although we hear Mrs.Goldfarb’s stomach growl after beginning a new diet program, Aronofsky successfully makes viewers feel, or at least further understand,  the way she does with this split screen edit. The camera’s slow press  on her nerving face to the left and refrigerator the right depict the extent of her pain. Without this edit she’s just hungry; with it she is in pain, anxiously craving food.

In Requiem, editing, in the same way the high contrast black and white of Pi does (read my analysis here) , is used as a legitimate storytelling device. On various occasions it is used as a vessel into the increasingly deteriorating mind of Mrs.Goldfarb on others it is a microscopic peer into the grit of drug use.

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Requiem’s other addicts include Sara Goldfarb’s dope fiend son Harry (Jared Leto) his friend Tyrone (Marlon Wayans) and girlfriend Marion (Jennifer Connelly). Their story begins in the warmth of the summer, and like the warmest time of the year, their lives are bright, happy and full of life. They take drugs simply to get lifted and involve themselves in the dealing business to better their living.

Soon it is autumn, then winter afterwards, and like the coldest months, their lives become stark and increasingly harder to endure.

Harry continuously shoots fulfilling his longing to get high but soon an infection develops and results in the amputation of his arm.

Tyrone becomes a little too infatuated with the drug dealing business and further descends into the world of crime. Similar to Harry, Tyrone hits rock bottom after his involvements in criminal activity gets him thrown in jail.

Marion looks to prostitution in order to earn money to pay for her drugs. Although the film leaves her in state of euphoria, Marion’s future sees the possibility of getting an STD, falling deeper into crime life, or facing death.

The second Harry injections himself, or when Tyrone makes a big score or after Marion finally obtains some dope, they briefly feel the warmth of summer but their obsessions all see them eventually feel the cold of winter when they hit rock bottom.

Aronofsky’s intentions could have very much been to just solely direct a stylistic film on obsession and addiction but personally I viewed Requiem for a Dream as a life lesson. The POV shots, editing and subjective nature of this film created an extremely visceral glance into the destruction addiction brings to the addict and their loved ones. Although I had no intentions to involve myself in crime or take drugs both times I watched Requiem, the story of Mrs.Goldfarb really resonated with me and enforced how important it is to not become overly fixated on appearance.

Although it isn’t an explicit message, my biggest takeaway from Requiem is that life is precious, life is beautiful but life is short. While taking care of your own health is essential it’s also important to be just as wary of the mental and physical state of your loved ones. Peoples’ descent into addiction is often linked to the lack of love or attention they received from the world. So please always show your respect and love to those around you.

What did you think of Requiem for A Dream? What’s your favorite Aronofsky film and are you looking forward to mother!? Let me know in the comments below!

Next on my Guide to Darren Aronofsky is the spiritual, transcending, love-story of The Fountain which stars Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz.

 

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