photo manipulation by nacrowe
DARREN ARANOFSKY's film adaptation of HUBERT SELBY JR's 1978 novel REQUIEM FOR A DREAM (ARTISAN ENTERTAINMENT, 2000) is easily one of the heaviest, brutal and emotionally affecting american films i have ever come across. to this day i find it hard to watch.
and that is probably a good thing because this is the type of film that is meant to be appreciated by not necessarily enjoyed. the film is mostly an ensemble piece that follows the downward trajectories of four people, all aspiring and optimistic, but dragged under nonetheless into a death spiral due to the collective weight of controlled substances. in essence drugs are the main character of the film and novel. all four characters have their own reasons for seeking and partaking in them, but the drugs swallow all of them whole leaving nothing much like a gaping black hole.
again its a remarkable film. the cast (ELLEN BURSTYN, JARED LETO, JENNIFER CONNELLY and MARLON WAYANS) all provided nuanced career performances. the cinematography is superb, incorporating jump-cuts and parallel editing that provide rhythm and a sense of abandon that matches the initial optimism and sense of carefree abandon of each of the characters' initial honeymoon period with narcotics. later that same editing is used to denote their extreme anguish and distance from reality. its quite an incredible repurposing of a specific type of montage and visual language best exemplified previously in hip hop music videos of the late 90s. even the KRONOS QUARTET-performed CLINT MANSELL film score was so transcendent it has lived a life far outside the confines of this film.
for me personally, i remember rewatching this film in high school abroad when i was at a friend's house in KUWAIT. there is a particularly brutal scene near the end where a character debases herself in front of a crowd. not to give anything away, but all four characters don't end well. anyway, watching this film with some friends of friends that were KUWAITI was a harrowing experience since these guys thought that scene was hilarious, even titillating. for me that was my last straw with attempting to empathize with the people there. i have been all over the Middle East and abroad (living in 8 countries and visiting over 60) and the only country i openly dislike is KUWAIT. to me that country has no redeeming quality. the only people i respected their were the workers from NEPAL, INDIA, PHILIPPINES, INDONESIA, SUDAN and elsewhere that sacrificed and faced extraordinary exploitation and persecution in order to send remittances home to their loved ones. for me when i watch or think about this film, it reminds me how MORALLY BANKRUPT that country is and how i wished we had never saved them from their IRAQI neighors twice.
just my opinion. i lived in KUWAIT. twice.
this is a great film that is an absolute must-see if you are a fan of filmmaking in general. just go into it knowing that you'll be depressed afterwards. also i can't recommend the novel enough. HUBERT SELBY JR is a personal hero of mine and i think it is just such a gift that the two films based on his novels (the other being ULI EDEL's LAST EXIT TO BROOKLYN) are modern classics. definitely seek both out and enjoy, errr maybe just appreciate them.