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Requiem for a Dream

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Title: Requiem for a Dream  
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Subject: Jennifer Connelly, Black Swan (film), The Wrestler (2008 film), Paul LeBlanc (make-up artist), 7th Screen Actors Guild Awards
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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
Hubert Selby, Jr.
Based on Requiem for a Dream 
by Hubert Selby, Jr.
Starring Ellen Burstyn
Jared Leto
Jennifer Connelly
Marlon Wayans
Christopher McDonald
Music by Clint Mansell
Cinematography Matthew Libatique
Edited by Jay Rabinowitz
Distributed by Artisan Entertainment
Release dates
  • May 14, 2000 (2000-05-14) (Cannes)
  • October 27, 2000 (2000-10-27) (US)
Running time 101 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $4.5 million
Box office $7,390,108[2]

Requiem for a Dream is a 2000 American psychological drama film directed by Darren Aronofsky and starring Ellen Burstyn, Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly, and Marlon Wayans. 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.[3]

The film depicts different forms of addiction, which lead to the characters’ imprisonment in a world of delusion and reckless desperation that is subsequently overtaken by reality.[4]


During the summer in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, elderly widow Sara Goldfarb (Ellen Burstyn) constantly watches television, particularly infomercials hosted by Tappy Tibbons (Christopher McDonald). After receiving a call that she will be invited to participate in her favorite infomercial, she becomes obsessed with regaining the youthful appearance she possesses in a photograph from her son Harry's (Jared Leto) graduation. In order to fit into her old red dress seen in the picture, the favorite of her deceased husband Seymour, she goes on a crash diet. In order to reach her goal sooner, she takes the advice of a friend to begin taking weight-loss amphetamine pills throughout the day and a sedative at night. Harry warns her about amphetamine dependence and risk of life-threatening consequences, but she rebuffs him and insists that the chance to be on television has given her a reason to live. When her invitation does not arrive, she increases her dosage from double to triple and, as a result, begins to suffer from amphetamine psychosis. As time goes on, her delusions worsen. She is driven to the brink of madness when she suffers a hallucination that she appears on the game show while the audience and stars laugh at her worsening living conditions while being attacked by her monstrous, anthropomorphized refrigerator.

Harry is young and has a promising and adventurous life with his girlfriend Marion Silver (Jennifer Connelly) and best friend Tyrone C. Love (Marlon Wayans). He and his friends are also heroin addicts. Tyrone decides that in order to support themselves, they should enter the illegal drug trade around Coney Island. With the promised money, each addict hopes to achieve their dreams: Harry and Marion want to open their own designer clothing store and escape Marion's oppressive parents, and Tyrone wants to move out of his family's low-income neighborhood and honor his late mother's memory. At first, business thrives. However, Tyrone is imprisoned after fleeing the scene of a drug-gang assassination and Harry uses most of their earned money to post bail.

Having spent their money, the three find it much more difficult to find heroin. Escalating drug-baron violence around New York City and rising drug prices make matters worse, which leads to a brutal state of deprivation. Harry suggests that Marion earn money by having sex with her psychiatrist, which is successful but strains their relationship. After one of Harry's drug deals goes awry, he and Marion have a falling out and he leaves her. Overnight, he and Tyrone flee to Miami in order to buy wholesale product and make their money back.

After the traumatizing hallucination, Sara takes a subway to a television studio in racist prison guards, and drug withdrawal. Harry is transferred from prison to a hospital to have his arm amputated. Back in New York, Marion meets with a pimp who supplies her with drugs in exchange for sex and her participation in degrading and graphic sex shows.

Each character struggles with depression and hopelessness and is shown curling into a fetal position. In the film's final moments, Sara dreams that she wins the grand prize with her son as the guest of honor. In her fantasy, Harry is well dressed and successful and he and Marion are engaged. Sara and Harry hug under the glowing stage lights while the crowd cheers.



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


The majority of reviewers characterized Requiem for a Dream in the genre of "drug movies", along with films like The Basketball Diaries, Trainspotting, Spun, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.[5][6] However, Aronofsky has said:[7]

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.


A close-up on Jared Leto's eyes.
One of the filmmaking techniques in Requiem for a Dream is the use of rapid cuts or a hip hop montage. Whenever the characters use street drugs, a rapid succession of images illustrates their transition from sobriety to intoxication. In this scene, Harry and Tyrone deal drugs and Marion uses cocaine while she designs clothes. The speed of the footage and the cuts alternates as the characters become intoxicated and sober.

Problems playing this file? See .

As in his previous film, π, Aronofsky uses montages of extremely short shots throughout the film (sometimes termed a hip hop montage).[5] 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.[5][8] 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.[9]

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.[8] Aronofsky aims to subjectivize emotion, and the effect of his stylistic choices is personalization rather than alienation.[9]

The film's distancing itself from empathy is furthered structurally by the use of intertitles (Summer, Fall, Winter), marking the temporal progress of addiction.[9] The average scene length shortens as the film 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.[8]


Requiem for a Dream premiered at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival on May 14, 2000 and the 2000 Toronto International Film Festival on September 13 before a wide release on October 27.


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.[10] An R-rated version was released on video, with the sex scene edited, but the rest of the film identical to the unrated version.

In the United Kingdom, the film was given an 18 certificate by the BBFC.[1]

Critical reception

Requiem For A Dream received critical acclaim and has a "Certified Fresh" score of 78% on [11] The film also has a score 68 out of 100 on Metacritic , based on 32 critics indicating "generally favorable reviews."[12] Film critic James Berardinelli considered Requiem for a Dream the second best film of the decade, behind the The Lord of the Rings film trilogy.[13]


Ellen Burstyn was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her role as Sara Goldfarb,[14] but lost to Dying Young co-star Julia Roberts as Erin Brockovich in the film of the same name. She was nominated for several other awards including the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress - Motion Picture Drama and the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role.[15]

In 2007, Requiem for a Dream was picked as one of the 400 nominated films for the American Film Institute list AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition)[16]


Listen to a clip from the soundtrack of "Requiem for a Dream."

Problems playing this file? See .

The soundtrack was composed by Clint Mansell with the string ensemble performed by Kronos Quartet. 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 re-orchestrated for the film trailer for The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.[17]

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. ^ a b (18)"REQUIEM FOR A DREAM".  
  2. ^ (2000) - Box Office Mojo"Requiem for a Dream".  
  3. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Requiem for a Dream". Retrieved 2009-10-17. 
  4. ^ "Requiem for a Dream :: :: Reviews". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2011-04-13.
  5. ^ a b c Booker, M. (2007). Postmodern Hollywood. New York: Praeger.  
  6. ^ Boyd, Susan (2008). Hooked. New York: Routledge. pp. 97–98.  
  7. ^ "It's a punk movie". (2000-10-13). Retrieved 2010-12-12.
  8. ^ a b c Dancyger, Ken (2002). The Technique of Film and Video Editing. London: Focal. pp. 257–258.  
  9. ^ a b c Powell, Anna (2007). Deleuze, Altered States and Film. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. p. 75.  
  10. ^ 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. 
  11. ^ "Requiem for a Dream Movie Reviews". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2010-12-12.
  12. ^ "Requiem for a Dream Reviews".  
  13. ^ "Top 10 Movies of the Decade". Retrieved 2011-03-01
  14. ^ Lyman, Rick (March 4, 2001). "OSCAR FILMS/ACTORS: An Angry Man and an Underused Woman; Ellen Burstyn Enjoys Her Second Act".  
  15. ^ "Award Nominees – 2000". The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.  
  16. ^ AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) Ballot
  17. ^ Ebert, Roger. "Answer Man". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved May 2, 2007.

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