If there’s one thing that Darren Aronofsky is very good at, it’s showing people go slowly bonkers. On this occasion, the Black Swan director has Ellen Burstyn, Jared Leto and Jennifer Connelly lose their grip on reality as various forms of addiction take hold.
Ellen Burstyn is an ageing widow who receives a phone call telling her she’ll be a contestant on her favourite quiz show. She frets that she can’t fit into her favourite dress, so starts taking diet pills. Meanwhile, her son (Leto) and his girlfriend (Connelly) are junkies who hang out with fellow heroin addict Marlon Wayans and dream of breaking out of the street dealing hell they live in. Over the course of six months, each character’s addiction spirals out of control, leading each to make increasingly dangerous decisions.
Requiem for a Dream is probably more famous for its soundtrack than its story. Clint Mansell’s Lux Aeterna – performed here by Kronos Quartet – has turned up on everything from The Da Vinci Code to the Two Towers trailer. In context, the music frames the film, adding an unsettling, jittery backdrop to the disorienting jump-cuts. The cinematography is starkly lovely in shades of cool blue, and the hallucinations are believably realised. Kudos to the principal cast for some sensitive and nuanced performances – Burstyn in particular – that keep each character sympathetic, no matter how they behave.
The film doesn’t pull any punches: the full extent of each character’s misery is played out in excruciating detail. Everything about it is jarring, and ultimately just plain depressing.
It’s a beautifully made film, though. One to play as a double bill with Jude any time you feel like throwing yourself off the nearest building.