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Movie review: Requiem for a dream

By Signal 11 in Culture
Wed Aug 29, 2001 at 06:58:22 PM EST
Tags: Movies (all tags)

I finished watching Requiem for a Dream last night. Then I spent the next hour alternating between staring into space and trying to explain to my girlfriend why I was so depressed. Requiem is a unique movie - I would describe it as a combination between Traffic, Memento, and an Alfred Hitchcock movie. If you're the type that becomes emotional or depressed easily, this might not be a good choice for you. It is, however, an excellent movie - innovative, yet simple cinematics, and music that flows with and compliments the story at all times. Artistically, I have seen few movies done so well. (Warning: Contains spoilers)

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Requiem for a Dream has four parts (spring, summer, fall, winter), and follows the lives of four people. The movie also contains all the things that the politically correct crowd desperately wants to keep away from anyone under the age of 40 years old - nudity, violence, sex, drugs, etc. Like Traffic, Requiem doesn't try to force a political agenda onto the viewer - but I guarantee you'll have no desire to shoot up after you watch this movie.

The movie starts off with one of the main characters stealing his mother's television set - while his mother is home. A minutes later, our suspicions are proven true: it is for heroin. By the end of the movie, regular use will have taken over his life. Most anti-drug advocates would have you believe that with any drug, you get addicted right away - but even with powerful drugs, that isn't the case - it's a slow progression, and Requiem drags the viewer on, one painful step at a time down that path. As the movie progresses, we see each character's dreams materialize, and then slip out of their hands. Our heroin junkie's mother starts taking diet pills, addicted not to the drugs - but the idea of being somebody - someone on TV, who everybody would like. His girlfriend, estranged from her parents, wants to design clothing for a living. That dream is financed by her boyfriend, who takes to selling drugs to make the money to open a store... but they're both hooked on heroin and soon that dream is nothing more than a memory.

Requiem's cinematics are very well executed - split-screen showing events from each person's perspective in each case, as well as time dilation photography, special effects, and audio distortions that vividly demonstrate the effects of excessive stimulant use. Requiem didn't have a multi-million dollar special effects budget: It didn't need one. The soundtrack is also one of the most depressing sets of classical music I have ever heard. The producers are not without a sense of humor, however, and you'll laugh a few times early on at the visuals - an old woman dreaming of food in bed, watching bacon, and other food leak out of the light in the ceiling... eventually falling asleep with a pie falling on her face with a subaudible squishing noise. By the end of the movie, however, you won't be laughing - you'll be cringing in the same way that watching someone take a kick to the nuts feels.

I don't award four stars for movies, but if I did, this movie would get one. Don't make any other plans for the evening after you watch this one though - you won't want to do anything. You might also opt to watch this without your girlfriend... if for no other reason than because you really won't want to explain what's on your mind after.


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Movie review: Requiem for a dream | 35 comments (34 topical, 1 editorial, 0 hidden)
Did you rent it? (4.33 / 3) (#1)
by stormwave on Wed Aug 29, 2001 at 12:18:10 PM EST

One of my roommates rented this film on video from Blockbuster, and it was an edited version of the original version (almost 20 minutes missing). He was not made aware of this before renting the video and they wouldn't give him his money back when he complained. The missing content made a noticeable difference in the ending.

"Plenty of hamsters but no wheel." - Hektor
by whom? (2.00 / 1) (#3)
by Refrag on Wed Aug 29, 2001 at 12:24:07 PM EST

Who edited the movie? The studio or Blockbuster (easy to do with VHS)?


Kuro5hin: ...and culture, from the trenches
[ Parent ]

I don't know (3.00 / 2) (#7)
by stormwave on Wed Aug 29, 2001 at 12:36:08 PM EST

I would suspect Blockbuster (subsidiary of Viacom, large entertainment company) , but I don't know for sure. It would be easier to check for differences in the DVD version(s).

"Plenty of hamsters but no wheel." - Hektor
[ Parent ]
Blockbuster (3.00 / 2) (#15)
by dr k on Wed Aug 29, 2001 at 02:40:46 PM EST

Blockbuster edits many of their films. Beware!

It has never been clear to me what their political motive is, but one can assume they like to remove excessive sex, violence, and drug use for the sake of taste. They can do this because they do their own remastering and duplication.

So stay away from their "pre-viewed" movie bins. And use a local-run video store, if you are fortunate enough to have one.
Destroy all trusted users!
[ Parent ]

Netflix (3.00 / 2) (#16)
by Refrag on Wed Aug 29, 2001 at 03:11:47 PM EST

I use Netflix.


Kuro5hin: ...and culture, from the trenches
[ Parent ]

Re: Netflix (2.00 / 1) (#17)
by Refrag on Wed Aug 29, 2001 at 03:12:42 PM EST

Even though their service is starting to suck.


Kuro5hin: ...and culture, from the trenches
[ Parent ]

Edits (none / 0) (#23)
by Merk00 on Thu Aug 30, 2001 at 11:51:07 AM EST

Requem for a Dream originally received an NC-17 rating. Darren Aronofsky was not happy with that but had to edit the film to get an R rating for release in theaters. There is a director's cut available that is the unedited form of the movie but it's availability in the US is limited. I believe you can buy it from Amazon.

"At FIRST we see a world where science and technology are celebrated, where kids think science is cool and dream of becoming science and technology heroes."
- FIRST Mission
[ Parent ]

Theaters? Edited? What?! (none / 0) (#26)
by ronin212 on Thu Aug 30, 2001 at 12:44:20 PM EST

When I saw this movie in the theater, it was unedited and unrated ... they freaking carded me to get in, too!

Now is the time... get on the right side! You'll be godlike.
[ Parent ]
Actually.. (none / 0) (#32)
by driph on Tue Sep 04, 2001 at 09:16:23 AM EST

...in theaters, the movie was shown in it's full glory. However, Blockbuster(and Hollywood Video, I believe) have restrictions against renting out NC-17 films, so in order for the movie to sit on their New Release shelves, it had to be edited down to an R rating.

If you want to see the movie as Aronofsky intended, rent it at a mom n pop video store in your area. You should be able to get ahold of the unedited version that way.

An aside, it's interesting to note that in Selby Jr's book, the controversial scene at the end where Marion does her thing is glossed over, leaving the details to the reader's imagination.

Vegas isn't a liberal stronghold. It's the place where the rich and powerful gamble away their company's pension fund and strangle call girls in their hotel rooms. - Psycho Dave
[ Parent ]

edited (4.00 / 1) (#6)
by starbreeze on Wed Aug 29, 2001 at 12:34:18 PM EST

d00d, the box that you rent it in even says "Requiem for a Dream: Edited version". Unless your Blockbuster is a lot different than mine.

"There's something strangely musical about noise." ~Trent Reznor
[ Parent ]

edit (none / 0) (#8)
by Refrag on Wed Aug 29, 2001 at 12:42:00 PM EST

What was edited out? Spoil it for me. I'll never watch this movie -- I don't feel like being depressed by it. Traffic did that enough for me, and I even think about buying Traffic on DVD every now & then.


Kuro5hin: ...and culture, from the trenches
[ Parent ]

Depressing.... (4.71 / 7) (#2)
by Mad Hughagi on Wed Aug 29, 2001 at 12:23:02 PM EST

Once in a while I watch a movie that *connects* to my sub-concious. This was one of them.

Requiem, Acid House and Crash are 3 movies that I don't think I will be watching again sometime soon, in that they all managed to invoke a sense of discomfort in my psyche. Although Requiem is a very well produced movie, the content manages to "taint" my outlook, if only for a short time. You get so engrossed with the characters, and with the process with which their life is enfolding, that I believe it lends itself to producing a feeling of "this is scary, because I could see myself walking around on that set - only for real".

Of course after a couple days it wears off, and all you're left with is a very strong motivation to not watch it again, but it will definately send you off to a corner for the rest of the evening after you watch it. Kind of like a sterilization of the soul. You watch something that is so pitiful that it cuts you out from your own situation and leaves you in limbo for a while...

Good Review.

We don't make the products you like, we make you like the products we make.

Exactly. (none / 0) (#11)
by Signal 11 on Wed Aug 29, 2001 at 01:10:31 PM EST

"this is scary, because I could see myself walking around on that set - only for real". ... You watch something that is so pitiful that it cuts you out from your own situation and leaves you in limbo for a while...

Exactly, thank you - I couldn't have put it better myself.

Society needs therapy. It's having
trouble accepting itself.
[ Parent ]

Good Lord (4.00 / 3) (#4)
by jabber on Wed Aug 29, 2001 at 12:29:26 PM EST

Sounds like a real happy evening.. ;) Your writeup alone was enough to depress me. Now I have to rent it (the uncut version) on some evening when I'll get cozy with a case of Red Bull. ;P

I'd hate to see you review Trainspotting, or Basketball Diaries, or Virgin Suicides, or Dead Man Walking, or Crossing Guard, or Sleepers, or Murder in the First, or that movie with that guy, about that girl who died in that pool.. You know that one?

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"

Actually (none / 0) (#14)
by mrgoat on Wed Aug 29, 2001 at 02:34:14 PM EST

I think Requiem for a Dream was far more poignant (sp?) than trainspotting, the virgin suicides, basketball diaries, or those other movies. Just my opinion, they're all really good, but even the "baby on ceiling" scene from trainspotting couldn't compare to Requiem, in terms of strength of feeling.

BTW, I had a decent buzz (alchohol induced) going by the end of this movie, the first time I watched it. I'm still not sure if it added or detracted from my experience, so hey, get crazy with the red bull! Altered states are just great for drug movies.

As an aside, one of my friends was watching this with me, and she had to leave the room for a good quarter of it.

"I'm having sex right now?" - Joh3n
--Top Hat--
[ Parent ]

Agreed (none / 0) (#18)
by Mad Hughagi on Wed Aug 29, 2001 at 04:44:16 PM EST

I've seen most of these movies as well, and as far as the empathetic reaction one recieves from watching a movie goes Requiem blew the others right out of the water.

It's interesting that your friend had to leave the room while watching it. I distinctly remember writhing around on the couch in self-induced agony for the last quarter of the movie. It was so moving I was actually physically disturbed... I think the only movie I have ever had to stop watching was Crash. I was so intrigued in Requiem and how it would turn out in the end that I forced myself to watch it though.

After the movie some of my friends tried to talk a bit (about 6 of us watched it on DVD at my friend's house) but I was speechless (this is a rare occurance). On the way home all I could say was that I didn't feel too good upstairs... It was such a compelling story (in it's portrayal, plot, overall experience) that I could not divorce myself from the fact that it was "just a movie".

I was fine the next day, but there was a period of time that evening where I wasn't sure if things were "alright". I guess it kind of solidified my conjectures on the fine-line that we sometimes walk, and how it is all to easy to lose your footing and start a descent into a situation where you're helpless.

We don't make the products you like, we make you like the products we make.
[ Parent ]

Umm (none / 0) (#24)
by Rainy on Thu Aug 30, 2001 at 12:09:07 PM EST

I have to agree with the other reply - requiem is *far* *more* distressing than say trainspotting. If the latter bothered you notably, don't watch the former.
Rainy "Collect all zero" Day
[ Parent ]
The Virgin Suicides (none / 0) (#30)
by 0x00 on Sun Sep 02, 2001 at 10:09:45 PM EST

Is the most depressing movie I have ever seen at the cinema. I suggest everyone see it at some stage. Make sure you have someone to talk to after viewing.




[ Parent ]
edited version? (3.00 / 2) (#5)
by starbreeze on Wed Aug 29, 2001 at 12:32:42 PM EST

I've searched all the local video rental places... all I can find is the edited version. So I must have missed something. I do become easily depressed, but this movie did not evoke much an emotional response from me. The whole I just kept thinking "wow this is sad, in a fucked up sort of way." Maybe I need to have at some point in my life used one of these illegal substances to appreciate this film?

"There's something strangely musical about noise." ~Trent Reznor

I was wondering that too. (3.00 / 1) (#10)
by Faulty Dreamer on Wed Aug 29, 2001 at 12:50:06 PM EST

I keep hearing about how depressing this movie is. I haven't watched it, but the descriptions don't sound that depressing to me. It sounds like a plea against becoming a junky. That sort of message doesn't really strike me as being depressing. Maybe the characters fall apart, and maybe, if you are a drug user, you could see yourself there. But if you had never used, and never wanted to use, drugs (not even alchohol or "diet" pills) would the movie have the same depressing effect?

Or is my life so depressing that the reviews and descriptions of this movie actually make it sound not-so-bad?

Faulty Dreams - Barking at the moon 24/7...

If you think I'm an asshole, it's only because you haven't realized what a fucking idiot I am. - Faulty Dreamer
[ Parent ]

well . . . (none / 0) (#31)
by laviniashands on Mon Sep 03, 2001 at 12:28:50 PM EST

i'm not entirely sure what you're asking, but i've seen the movie. it's amazing. yes, it's horribly depressing & makes the world seem pretty dark for a while afterwards, but you don't have to do drugs to see the merits of the film.

[ Parent ]
Yes. (4.00 / 1) (#35)
by Mr Tom on Thu Sep 06, 2001 at 11:53:30 AM EST

...because Requiem is not a film about drugs.<p>
It is a film about three people with simple, ordinary dreams that get royally fucked until the dream dies.<p>
Basically, if this film doesn't stir some form of powerful emotional reaction in you, then you're a lizard. </V> <p>
After seeing it on the big screen, it left me shaking, gibbering, and in need of a stiff drink to calm my nerves. <p>
-- Mr_Tom<at>gmx.co.uk

I am a consultant. My job is to make your job redundant.
[ Parent ]

Where 'depressing' comes from (4.50 / 2) (#12)
by Signal 11 on Wed Aug 29, 2001 at 01:17:44 PM EST

It comes from the realization, rather than denial, that everyone is equally capable of being in that position. People who deny that they could get hooked on something like heroin, or who take drugs but believe they'll never get addicted, or who say that all drugs are completely evil are in the same boat - they're denying the fact that they are human too, and just as capable of falling down the rabbit hole as anyone else.

It doesn't help that I have a strange kind of empathy for the characters in the movie, owing in no small part to severe (but drug free) depression as a kid. The path to insanity isn't marked, and you won't know you're on it until you get to the destination.

That is where the depression comes from.

Society needs therapy. It's having
trouble accepting itself.
[ Parent ]

Top-notch acting (4.33 / 3) (#13)
by Greyjack on Wed Aug 29, 2001 at 02:23:05 PM EST

The acting in the film is absolutely top-notch--especially Ellen Burstyn, who's performance is one of the absolute best I've *ever* seen. She should've won the Oscar, dammit.

Here is my philosophy: Everything changes (the word "everything" has just changed as the word "change" has: it now means "no change") --Ron Padgett

Had a discomforting feeling too (3.50 / 2) (#19)
by depok on Wed Aug 29, 2001 at 05:07:48 PM EST

I saw this movie a few weeks ago, and i was feeling quite messy after I left the theatre. The final 10 minutes drag you down in an insane world, that disgusts you. (one person left running the room, vomiting). I was with a friend, and because it was late we both went home immediatly after the movie. We were so troubled with the ending, that we had to call eachother (at 1 am) to talk about it and digest the film. A few years ago everybody thought "e; Trainspotting "e; was the new anti-drug movie, but that film left me a more -it's not so bad to take drugs- feeling. Requiem is a movie you should see at school, altough i think it would be hard to defend it to schoolboards. this movie is a must see, deserves every credit, so I gave this a +1 FP.


death has a thousand faces, they all look familiar to me

FYI (4.00 / 3) (#20)
by rajivvarma on Wed Aug 29, 2001 at 06:54:20 PM EST


Requiem for a Dream was directed by Darren Aronofsky, and the soundtrack features the Kronos Quartet. This is Aronofsky's sophomore project after having done Pi. More information is available at IMDb.com, the official movie site, a google search, and a Yahoo! search. And one last note: the best possible way to experience this movie is not to rent it but, rather, to see it in a movie theatre. Only in a theatre does the word "intense" become redefined by Requiem for a Dream.
Rajiv Varma
Mirror of DeCSS.

Bleh. (4.75 / 4) (#21)
by The Cunctator on Wed Aug 29, 2001 at 07:14:42 PM EST

Maybe I'm just a movie snob, but this seems more like a diary entry than a useful k5 entry. Seeing Requiem described as a Memento/Traffic/Hitchcock amalgam is depressing...only the Hitchcock comparison isn't an insult. And what on earth is meant by "simple cinematics"? The cinematics are terribly complex.

Requiem for a Dream is a lovely film, but this review doesn't do much other than say that it's well-executed and depressing. In other words, the review doesn't introduce the movie with any depth--there's no depth of its place in cinematic history (what are its filmic influences--New Wave cinema, etc.), no depth of its story (the book, the specifics of New York City drug use, Brighton Beach, national trends), no depth of discussion about the performers (Ellen Burstyn, etc.--I found that the other performers were made to look better than they can act by the quality of the script and direction), not even any depth of understanding of the Kronos Quartet soundtrack.

I'm still aggrieved by the Memento/Traffic/Hitchcock concept. More Happiness/Midnight Cowboy/Antigone/Godard.

Funny.. (3.00 / 1) (#29)
by mindstrm on Sun Sep 02, 2001 at 01:30:37 PM EST

I thought his review was quite accurate, aside from the fact that there were 3 seasons, not four.

And his analogies were great, in my opinion.

[ Parent ]
review? (3.00 / 1) (#22)
by Ender Ryan on Wed Aug 29, 2001 at 09:36:30 PM EST

What kind of review is that? You recommend the movie but tell us that it will make us feel absolutely awful for days afterwards?

How the hell is that supposed to work, why would that make us want to see it?

Well, I guess I have to go rent this tomorrow to see what all this nonsense is about ; )

Seriously, great review, much better than most movie critics.

Exposing vast conspiracies! Experts at everything even outside our expertise! Liberators of the world from the oppression of the evil USian Empire!

We are Kuro5hin!

Censored or not? (3.00 / 1) (#25)
by ronin212 on Thu Aug 30, 2001 at 12:37:14 PM EST

Yes, this is a great movie. I saw it when it first came out in the movie theater (although only one theater in the whole NYC metro area was playing it!).

Curiosity question, though. How many people have seen the complete movie, and how many have seen the R-rated version that BlockBastard rents?

Now is the time... get on the right side! You'll be godlike.
Cameo Appearence (3.00 / 1) (#27)
by retinaburn on Thu Aug 30, 2001 at 02:07:13 PM EST

For those that did not see the DVD version the Jailer at the end of the movie that is yelling at Wayans Brother Number X is the author that wrote the book "Requiem for Dream". He's crazy.

I think that we are a young species that often fucks with things we don't know how to unfuck. -- Tycho

Spring? (3.00 / 1) (#28)
by atlas on Sun Sep 02, 2001 at 09:42:57 AM EST

Requiem for a Dream has four parts (spring, summer, fall, winter)

False. There is no spring. The movie has three parts, beginning with summer. A quick google search reveals a number of other reviewers who got caught up in the seasons and thought that there must be four as well as some reviewers who realized there were only three seasons. Not recognizing the absence of spring loses sight of an important, emotionally effective aspect of the movie.

By the end of the movie, however, you won't be laughing - you'll be cringing in the same way that watching someone take a kick to the nuts feels.

This analogy is horrible. It should be applied in the context of a movie like American Pie 2 or Scary Movie 2, not to a movie as beautiful and powerful as Requiem. I certainly was cringing at the end of the movie, but in a much different way than I would at seeing "someone take a kick to the nuts." I was cringing in the same way that watching people's lives take the final swirl around the toilet feels.

Please, the next time you write a review, make sure your facts are straight and watch your analogies.

Review Links (no Spring)
http://www.rte.ie/arts/2001/0118/requiem.html http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/film/journal/filmrev/requiem-for-a-dream.htm

Mediocre review of an excellent film .. (none / 0) (#33)
by dave920 on Tue Sep 04, 2001 at 03:59:09 PM EST

I haven't visited K5 in a few days, and when I saw the link on the front page to this review, that was the first thing I clicked -- Requiem for a Dream is my favorite movie (it took over Sleepers as my favorite movie the first time I saw it).

The review of it was alright, but I think a film like Requiem cannot be "reviewed" in only a few paragraphs. There was nothing about this movie that I didn't like, which is something I have almost never found in a film. Aside from the plot line (while somewhat unoriginal -- who hasn't seen a movie where drugs fuck up people's lives? -- it was still well documented and carried through), the cinematics blew me away. I loved the Snatch-like scenes that would be displayed when the characters would shoot up .. it was much more effective than watching someone stick a needle in their arm.

My favorite part of the film was the last ten to 20 minutes of it, where all of the intense noise begins only to get replaced by more soothing music, and then intense again. The first time that I saw it I had to get out of my seat and walk around the room .. it had such a titilating effect on me that no other movie I have seen has produced.

Requiem for a Dream is by far one of the best movies ever produced. Others may argue, and in the end it is a personal viewpoint, but this film had everything in a movie that I want. I thank everyone involved in its creation for making such a wonderful piece of expression.

well (1.00 / 1) (#34)
by meshuga on Thu Sep 06, 2001 at 06:27:52 AM EST

after watching this movie i was both moved, and amazed. i'm not a movie fan, but i've never seen something as real as this movie. anyone who has *ever* done white drugs 'recreationally' will understand, its a sick world some people live in, and hopefully scare them away from them. this is a movie i would show any pothead, or pre-rave kid, just to show them 'what the drug is like'.
- meshuga
Movie review: Requiem for a dream | 35 comments (34 topical, 1 editorial, 0 hidden)
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