Requiem for a Dream
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Darren Aronofsky’s directorial debut, PI, was one messed up movie. I remember seeing it in theatres with a bunch of friends, sitting in stunned silence and blankly staring at the disturbingly dark black and white visuals. It was almost too much to absorb as the bizarre combination of rabbis, mathematics and migraine headaches left me both dizzy and disoriented. His latest effort, Requiem for a Dream, treads in similar waters on a DVD release that’s got 2 solid commentary tracks, a "making of" documentary and plenty of deleted scenes. Did I mention that this was the director’s cut too?
The movie tells the story of four individuals, each with their own set of dreams and aspirations of attaining their visions of success and happiness. In their quest for self-fulfillment, they all helplessly fall victim to addictions which cast them into both isolation and madness as they struggle to find their way towards their goals. Whether it be coffee, TV, heroine or cocaine, their drugs of choice aren’t really relevant, as much as the horrifying consequences that follow.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
Damn, where do I start with this one? Rarely can I remember a movie which so effectively transported the viewer into its own twisted world, through an unconventional blend of haunting visuals and moving score. The title cards in the movie are stamped in with machine like sound effects and it’s almost as if we as viewers are strapped onto a conveyer belt, pushed through a veritable cinematic meat grinder. Be prepared for a brutal psychological portrayal of addiction through a collection of terrific actors, covering four very different characters. We watch in stunned horror as each one plunges deeper and deeper into their vice of choice, unable to fight off the disease of temptation (for those who don’t know, addiction is indeed a physical disease, just like any other sickness). A testament to the movie’s power is the feeling of helplessness it radiates for the viewer, the notion that no matter how hard you try, you can never truly escape the suffocating clutches of your addictions. People often have difficulty understanding the plight of junkies and the torment through which they suffer, but this movie hits you over the head like a sledgehammer, leaving you with little choice but to ultimately appreciate and empathize with their causes.
In terms of the cast, Ellen Burstyn delivers one of the most powerful and horrific performances I’ve seen in years. Her physical and mental transformation are at times very hard to watch but truly capture the essence of her terrible experience. If you have a lonely grandparent living by themselves, I can guarantee that you’ll never look at them the same way again after seeing this movie. Jared Leto finally rises from mediocrity to put himself into a decent role, one with which he does a fantastic job. Struggling to balance his mother and girlfriend, he soaks himself in heroine and coke as he clings to the dreams of a better tomorrow. His physical deterioration is painful to watch (I found myself squirming during many key moments) but is at the same time terribly effective. Jennifer Connelly had my sympathy during the whole movie as we watch her succumb to her own demons, only to sacrifice both body and conscience to satisfy them. And last but not least, Marlon Wayans, who despite his reputation for taking bad roles in awful movies, will have you forgetting he was ever a comedic actor. Great job, dude. To put all of the above together and sum this one up, it’s a truly different movie-going experience, one which will leave you remembering both its characters and the horrors of addiction. Don’t pass this one up.
Kicking off the supplements is “The Making Of” documentary which runs about 35 minutes and features mostly behind the scenes footage shot on a digital handy cam, with periodic narration from Aronofsky. It was cool to check out how many of the sets were painstakingly assembled piece by piece, a process which I had no idea was that complex. Other worthwhile excerpts from the documentary were the extensive shots of Ellen Burstyn’s make-up application and how they used fat suits and prosthetic necks to create her physical transformation. Next up are 9 deleted scenes in rough form which are for the most part very short, running under a minute in time. A nice little added feature is that you can listen to Aronofsky’s thoughts on the scenes through a separate mini-commentary feature. Check them out for Wayans' take on Jar Jar Binks and an extended scene where an evil prison guard rags on Wayans’ work efforts.
“Anatomy of a Scene” is a 5-minute retrospective outlining one of the movie’s key shots, where a 40-minute take of Burstyn cleaning her house translated into only a few seconds on screen. To achieve the desired effect, a robotic camera was used to create the tracking time lapse shot. “Memories, Dreams and Addictions” is a 20-minute interview segment with writer Hubert Selby Jr. (who wrote the book on which the movie is based) conducted by actress Ellen Burstyn. He basically discusses key moments of his life and it was cool to catch a glimpse of the man behind the movie’s story. I honestly don’t know whether half the stuff he says is true and he seems kind of…“weird”? Production notes, 2 trailers and 2 TV spots finish up the bonuses. The DVD's menus are completely animated with sound, using the Tappy Tibbons infomercial featured in the flick.
If you’re one of the many moviegoers who’s grown tired of the repetitively formulaic vehicles that Hollywood’s been endlessly pumping out, see this movie. While it’s certainly an unconventional and stylized portrayal of addiction, you can’t argue that it doesn’t make for powerful viewing. With great visuals, wicked audio and a whole slew of kick ass extras, this DVD is worth every penny and is definitely worth the money. In the immortal words of self help guru Tappy Tibbons: “We got a winner!” Check it out.