I Watched Requiem for a Dream, 13 Years Late: Here’s What I Thought

Close to 13 years ago, a portrayal of emotional and physical demise from drug addiction was shown in cinemas. Close to 6 years ago, I decided I really liked a certain film soundtrack, but never watched the film, I was too young, and it didn’t seem like my type of thing. Today, I watched Requiem for a Dream, a Darren Aronofsky film, with masterful cinematography, experimental editing, a killer soundtrack, ‘beautiful’ acting, and the most distressing ‘third act’ to a film, I’ve ever watched.

In it’s essence, Requiem for a Dream is a linear story about 4 people, addicted to drugs, who spiral into a horrifying decline. You could argue that there are no deeper meanings to this motion picture, it’s a story which happens to be incredibly cleverly, and upsettingly presented. I like reading into stories, metaphors and subtle meanings so the narrative itself was a little bland, but layered on top of that story, was filmmaking taken to new highs, and emotional lows.

The jump cuts and editing never became ‘cheesy’ or overused to me. It accentuated the drama and I loved the feel of it as a whole. Many complained that it was repetitive, but some longer more thoughtful shots and dialogue seemed to balance it out just enough. There is little characterisation in this movie, and I often felt as if we didn’t get to know the characters, especially Tyrone (Marlon Wayans), enough to care about them at the end, despite all the characters being played impeccably. The longest piece of dialogue in Requiem, was a conversation between Sara (Ellen Burstyn) and Harry (Jared Leto) which was distressing in its realism; I’d love to have seen more scenes like this.

But it’s the end which Aronofsky’s composition is most famous for. Requiem for a Dream builds pace rapidly though it’s ~95 minute run time, starting fast, and ending up blindingly snappy. So when we reach the climax, it feels like it’s in the right place. It was overwhelming and uncomfortable to watch; I understand many first time viewers close their eyes in the final sequences, due to the graphic nature, sex and emotional distress. I squinted through the final act, finger on volume key for comfort, but I didn’t move an inch. This film literally straps you up and holds you down, much like Sara, and doesn’t let you go. It plays with your mind and leaves you relieved it’s over. I struggle to feel sorry for the characters, but nevertheless the positions they end up in are hardly positive.

The outstanding score from Clint Mansell pulls together this movie, increasing in pace at the same rate as the visuals, and it’s masterful. All of these components brought together in such a way is so powerful. It’s not the best film I’ve ever watched, but it does exactly what it set out to do, and a little more. It didn’t change my life, but it will remain with me for the rest of my life.