Requiem for a Dream is pure cinema and it is here that Darren Aronofsky proved himself as a brilliant visual storyteller. It is perhaps the perfect encapsulation of addiction, on various levels, although Aronofsky uses substance abuse as his gateway into the vices of humanity. There’s a sense of yearning in all of the characters, of striving, that shines through not in dialogue, but in the sequences of pure cinema.
Clint Mansell’s rightfully famous score is full of enough emotion and bleakness to spring a tear from any eye. The main theme’s orchestral notes serve as a flawless musical embodiment of the downward spiral that infects Dream‘s characters. Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly, and Marlon Wayans are all superb, and anything less would have destroyed Aronofsky’s atmosphere, but Ellen Burstyn is staggering as Harry’s mother Sara.
Requiem for a Dream is perhaps the bleakest film of all-time. Aronofsky’s bleakness isn’t cheap or token – he earns it, building massive amounts of humanity, setting mood, and displaying a staggering mastery of cinema as his characters are painfully crushed. The most minor characters display addictions. Everyone is sweaty, craving their next fix, indifferent to their inhumanity towards fellow humans. It is a film of sickness, a film of sickly colors and shadows and images; it’s a sickness that rapid-cuts its way into your veins, dilating your eyes along with Harry, forcing you to see and feel everything. As an avid fan of the genre I know one when I see one – Requiem for a Dream is a horror film – undeniably art, but impossible to call beautiful.