I just saw Requiem For A Dream and I have to say, I was blown away. Not since 1995's The Basketball Diaries, has a film so accurately portrayed the craving and depravity of a person dealing with(or succumbing to) addiction. It is a beautifully articulated piece of artwork, intricately presented on a silver platter. Director Darren Aronofsky shines in his brilliant direction and style, in this depiction of the downward spiral of the lives of four people, living with their respective addictions.
Jared Leto, gives an excellent, solid performance as Harry Goldfarb, a man living an inch from his life, always in search of a fix. In an emotional powerhouse of a performance, he proves to audiences that he can shine through in a major role as opposed to previous smaller roles in Fight Club and American Psycho. However, it appears to be a Hollywood in-joke of sorts in that it seems he has a penchant for mutilation or at least the roles he seems to take on seem to have for him. In Fight Club, he had his face rearranged and in American Psycho, his head cut off. In Requiem however, it is the mutilation of his life, his whole character, that takes centerstage, ending in a satisfying climax of gargantuan proportions in which he gives the audience more than their money's worth in his power-packed performance.
However, the real star of the film lies in the talent of Ellen Burstyn. Audiences will wonder at her appearance at the beginning of the film, not really knowing if it is, in fact, her. Her performance as a television, sugar and eventually, diet pill-addicted mother of Harry shows that she's still got it after all these years. If you want to make a comparison of her thespian skills throughout the years, watch the revived version of The Exorcist. She can only get better. She takes on the role of Sarah Goldfarb with gusto, never backing down for a second. Totally throwing herself into the role, you tend to forget how she really looks like, given only fleeting moments in the film which suggest her real appearance. I have to say, she's got guts. How many female actresses her age would dare to have a camera strapped to her person(as Aronofsky so creatively did), an inch away from her face with a wide angle lens? She definately deserves her Oscar nomination, if not, the Oscar itself, for her tour-de-force performance.
The other characters themselves hold their own with the two abovementioned powerhouses. Jennifer Connelly and Marlon Wayans both realistically portray their respective roles as Marion Silver, Harry's girlfriend and rebellious suburbanite chick, who degenerates to prostitution for her fix and Tyrone C. Love, Harry's best friend and fellow pusher. Here, Wayans shows that he can lose his comic edge if needed, to portray a boy trapped in a man's body, just yearning for his mother's approval but seeking it instead, in drugs. Connelly as well, who has been taking on smaller roles and projects over the last few years, is finally given enough room to play with her character and gives a winning performance in Requiem.
The cinematography of Matthew Libatique gives total light on the chracterizations of the people in habiting Aronofsky's sick world, from the sliently flickering sick-green flourescents to the exaggerated wide angle shots and the beautifully sad and haunting Coney Island picturesque of the pier which suggests a certain beauty amidst all the sadness and depravity. A Downer Picturesque, as portrayed by the photographs of Robert Frank and the Frank influenced cinematography of Darius Khondji in Seven. In my books, Matthew Libatique has just joined those ranks.
Jay Rabinowitz' editing stands out as well, with in-your-face smash title cards(emphasising the downward crash of the character's lives through the seasons), as well as the close-up constructions of the drug taking process. The latter sequences, edited so tightly and seamlessly, make the moment so beautiful but so fleeting, as is the case with drugs. The sequences are almost like a drug, making you crave for more of them, a fix which you get, whenever the characters get their own fix in the film. Lots of people might misinterpret this as glamourising the drug culture but these moments are so fleeting that they're over before you even know it, and then it's back to Harry, Marion, Sarah and Tyrone's sick and depraved search for the next fix, which very accurately portrays the twisted quest of a true and sincere addiction.
The film is also superbly scored by Clint Mansell and hauntingly performed by the Kronos Quartet. A series of hauntingly shocking, yet mind-numbingly beautiful pieces which linger in your head long after you've left the cinema.
Lastly, the direction of Aronofsky, brilliant, beautiful, empathic. There are not enough words to describe his direction or this film and I think the best way to say it is that I am speechless. Aronofsky has shown me that, jaded by so many films, something can still prompt me to sit up and take notice. To see something that I have never seen before or learn something I don't already know. The ending, is sheer power. A masterpiece of all the elements of what filmmaking is about, mixed together in some sick souffle and thrown into your face, burning hot and scalding. The film leaves a deep impression, in fact, a huge scar. And it is a scar I am proud to wear.
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