In his 1978 novel Requiem for a Dream, Hubert Selby Jr. paints a desolate picture of the lives of four addicts in New York.
In his cinematic adaption, Darren Aronofsky brings the story to life in a manner which is at once visceral, disturbing, tender and heart-rending. Showing at the Manchester Film Festival as part of a collection of films turning twenty years old this year, the film feels as compelling today as it ever has.
Requiem for a Dream intertwines the stories of heroin addicts Harry Goldfarb (Jared Leto), Marion Silver (Jennifer Connelly) and Tyrone Love (Marlon Wayans) with that of Harry’s mother Sara Goldfarb (Ellen Burstyn), who develops an addiction to diet pills.
Aronofsky highlights the shared feelings of loss and isolation that drive each character to addiction and centres these similarities. In his performance as Harry, Leto’s transition from vibrant and optimistic to irritable and apathetic captures the actor at his youthful best, but it’s Burstyn as Sara who provides the film with its most poignant and powerful moments.
Owing to Aronofsky’s extensive use of fast cutting, split screen images and so-called “hip-hop montages” the film possesses a distinct visual style. Clint Mansell’s unique score literalises the metaphor of the film’s title and together they create a propulsive momentum that drives the film throughout. As the narrative progresses and the characters fall deeper into their spiral of addiction, the feeling of despair is inescapable.