Requiem for a Dream

Requiem for a Dream
Requiem for a Dream

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Darren Aronofsky
Produced by Eric Watson
Palmer West
Screenplay by Darren Aronofsky
Based on Requiem for a Dream by
Hubert Selby, Jr.
Starring Ellen Burstyn
Jared Leto
Jennifer Connelly
Marlon Wayans
Music by Clint Mansell
Cinematography Matthew Libatique
Editing by Jay Rabinowitz
Studio Thousand Words
Distributed by Artisan Entertainment
Release date(s) October 27, 2000 (2000-10-27)
Running time 101 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $4.5 million
Box office $7,390,108

Requiem for a Dream is a 2000 drama film directed by Darren Aronofsky and starring Ellen Burstyn, Jared Leto, Marlon Wayans and Jennifer Connelly. The film is based on the novel of the same name by Hubert Selby, Jr., with whom Aronofsky wrote the screenplay. Burstyn was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance. The film was screened out of competition at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival.[1]

The film depicts different forms of addiction, leading to the characters’ imprisonment in a world of delusion and reckless desperation that is subsequently overtaken and devastated by reality.[2]



The film charts three seasons in the lives of Sara Goldfarb (Ellen Burstyn), her son Harry (Jared Leto), Harry’s girlfriend Marion Silver (Jennifer Connelly), and Harry’s friend Tyrone C. Love (Marlon Wayans).

The story begins in summer; Sara Goldfarb, an elderly widow living alone in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, spends her time watching infomercials hosted by Tappy Tibbons (Christopher McDonald). After a phone call announces that she will be invited to be a participant on a game show, she becomes obsessed with regaining the youthful appearance she possesses in a photograph from Harry's graduation, her proudest moment. In order to fit into her old red dress, the favorite of her deceased husband Seymour, she begins taking a regimen of prescription weight-loss amphetamine pills throughout the day and a sedative at night. Despite Harry’s warnings about amphetamine addiction, she passionately insists that the chance to be on television has given her a reason to live. When her invitation does not arrive over the fall, she increases her dosage but begins suffering from amphetamine psychosis, hallucinating that she is the principal subject of the game show and that her refrigerator is a menacing, living monster.

Harry is a heroin addict; together with fellow addicts Tyrone and Marion, he enters the illegal drug trade around Coney Island in an attempt to realize their dreams. With the money they make over the summer, Harry and Marion hope to open a fashion store for Marion’s designs, while Tyrone dreams of making his mother proud by escaping the street. However, at the beginning of fall, Tyrone is caught in the middle of a drug gang assassination, and Harry must use most of their money to post bail. Increasing drug-related violence and arrests begin making it hard to obtain drugs, throwing Harry, Tyrone, and Marion into a state of deprivation. Growing more desperate, Harry convinces Marion to have sex with her psychiatrist in exchange for money, causing a rift in the relationship. Meanwhile, Harry’s arm is becoming infected from unsanitary injection techniques.

As Sara’s sanity unravels, she takes the subway to visit the television studio in Manhattan. The secretary at the studio calls a hospital and Sara is involuntarily committed to a psychiatric ward where she undergoes unsuccessful medicative treatment, followed by electroconvulsive therapy. Harry and Tyrone set out for Florida to obtain drugs, but Harry’s increasingly infected arm forces them to visit a hospital in South Carolina, where they are arrested for skipping bail. Tyrone must deal with hard labor, racist prison guards and drug withdrawal, as Harry is taken to a prison hospital to have his arm amputated. Harry has a recurring dream of Marion waiting for him at a pier at Coney Island, but awakens and realizes that he is alone in jail with just one arm. Back in New York, Marion meets with a pimp (Keith David), who gives her drugs in exchange for sex and puts her in sex shows to provide for her drug habit.

Lost in misery, each character curls into a fetal position. In Sara’s dream, she wins the game show’s grand prize and meets Harry there. In her fantasy, Harry is a successful businessman and engaged to Marion. Sara and Harry hug and say how much they love one another through the cheers of the crowd and the glowing stage lights.



The film rights to Selby's book were optioned by Scott Vogel for Truth and Soul Pictures in 1997 prior to the release of Aronofsky's film π.


In the United States, the film was originally rated NC-17 by the MPAA, but Aronofsky appealed the rating, claiming that cutting any portion of the film would dilute its message. The appeal was denied and Artisan decided to release the film unrated.[3] An R-rated version was released on video, with the sex scene edited, but the rest of the movie identical to the unrated version.

In the United Kingdom, the film was given an 18 certificate by the BBFC.


The majority of reviewers characterized Requiem for a Dream in the genre of "drug movies", along with films like Trainspotting, Spun, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.[4][5] However, Aronofsky has said:[6]

Requiem for a Dream is not about heroin or about drugs… The Harry-Tyrone-Marion story is a very traditional heroin story. But putting it side by side with the Sara story, we suddenly say, 'Oh, my God, what is a drug?' The idea that the same inner monologue goes through a person's head when they're trying to quit drugs, as with cigarettes, as when they're trying to not eat food so they can lose 20 pounds, was really fascinating to me. I thought it was an idea that we hadn't seen on film and I wanted to bring it up on the screen.

In the book, Selby refers to the "American Dream" as amorphous and unattainable, a compilation of the various desires of the story's characters.


As in his previous film, π, Aronofsky uses montages of extremely short shots throughout the film (sometimes termed a hip hop montage).[4] While an average 100-minute film has 600 to 700 cuts, Requiem features more than 2,000. Split-screen is used extensively, along with extremely tight closeups.[4][7] Long tracking shots (including those shot with an apparatus strapping a camera to an actor, called the Snorricam) and time-lapse photography are also prominent stylistic devices.[8]

In order to portray the shift from the objective, community-based narrative to the subjective, isolated state of the characters' perspectives, Aronofsky alternates between extreme closeups and extreme distance from the action and intercuts reality with a character's fantasy.[7] Aronofsky aims to subjectivise emotion, and the effect of his stylistic choices is personalisation rather than alienation.[8]

The film's distancing itself from empathy is furthered structurally by the use of intertitles (Summer, Fall, Winter), marking the temporal progress of addiction.[8] The average scene length shortens as the movie progresses (beginning around 90 seconds to two minutes) until the movie's climactic scenes, which are cut together very rapidly (many changes per second) and are accompanied by a score which increases in intensity accordingly. After the climax, there is a short period of serenity, during which idyllic dreams of what may have been are juxtaposed with portraits of the four shattered lives.[7]


The film received a largely positive response from critics, with the film aggregator website, Rotten Tomatoes, giving the film a 78% "Certified Fresh" rating, with the camera work and the individual performances particularly praised.[9] Film critic James Berardinelli considered Requiem for a Dream the second best film of the decade, behind the Lord of the Rings trilogy.[10]


The soundtrack was composed by Clint Mansell with the string ensemble performed by Kronos Quartet. It is notable for its use of sharp string instruments to create a cold and discomforting sound from instruments frequently used for their warmth and softness. The string quartet arrangements were written by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer David Lang.

The soundtrack has been widely praised and has subsequently been used in various forms in trailers for other films, including The Da Vinci Code, Sunshine, Lost, I Am Legend, Babylon A.D., and Zathura. A version of the recurring theme was reorchestrated for the film trailer for The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.[11]

The soundtrack also confirmed its popularity with the remix album Requiem for a Dream: Remixed, which contains new mixes of the music by Paul Oakenfold, Josh Wink, Jagz Kooner, and Delerium, among others.


  1. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Requiem for a Dream". Retrieved 2009-10-17. 
  2. ^ "Requiem for a Dream :: :: Reviews". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2011-04-13.
  3. ^ Hernandez, Eugene; Anthony Kaufman (August 25, 2000). "MPAA Upholds NC-17 Rating for Aronofsky's "Requiem for a Dream"; Artisan Stands Behind Film and Will Release Film Unrated". indieWIRE. SnagFilms. Retrieved 1 November 2011. 
  4. ^ a b c Booker, M. (2007). Postmodern Hollywood. New York: Praeger. ISBN 0275999009. 
  5. ^ Boyd, Susan (2008). Hooked. New York: Routledge. pp. 97–98. ISBN 0415957060. 
  6. ^ "It's a punk movie". (2000-10-13). Retrieved 2010-12-12.
  7. ^ a b c Dancyger, Ken (2002). The Technique of Film and Video Editing. London: Focal. pp. 257–258. ISBN 0240804201. 
  8. ^ a b c Powell, Anna (2007). Deleuze, Altered States and Film. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. p. 75. ISBN 0748632824. 
  9. ^ "Requiem for a Dream Movie Reviews". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2010-12-12.
  10. ^ "Top 10 Movies of the Decade". Retrieved 2011-03-01
  11. ^ Ebert, Roger. "Answer Man". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved May 2, 2007.

External links

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