Hit Me With Your Best Shot" series we choose our favorite images from motion pictures. Next Wednesday we're looking at Fellini's La Dolce Vita (1960) in glorious black & white. Today's topic is Darren Aronofsky's haunting addiction drama... in full color.
"If this is red, I wanna know what's orange?"
Requiem for a Dream (2000)
10th Anniversary Appreciation
Requiem for a Dream warns us continually about the addictive power of drugs, dreams, and dieting... but who will warn us about the addictive properties of Requiem for a Dream? The movie is, in its own teeth-grinding way, as hard to kick as Sara Goldfarb's (Ellen Burstyn) diet pills or the harder stuff her only son Harry (Jared Leto) ingests. But I realized something during my umpteenth view that I haven't quite processed before. I rarely watch the whole movie. When the characters get high in Requiem there's often a long slow fade to white to end the scene. My fade to white is the centerpiece monologue, one of the most brilliantly shot and performed monologues ever. After it, I can't take anymore.
Ellen Burstyn is such a quivering ball of despair, held together by willfully hand-stitched delusion... "I like thinking about the red dress... and the television." Jared Leto's aftershock moment in the cab afterwards, from weeping baby to instantly stoned man, is a pitch-perfect exit scene. Aside from two brilliant performances, the cinematography by Matthew Libatique is masterful. The whites are always too white in Requiem; it's not just dope that's making them snowblind. It's a harsh world out there. Also note the sickly green light of the interior Goldfarb apartment. The outside world will swallow you up but you're no safer inside.
But for "Best Shot" let us applaud the split screen. Darren Aronofsky isn't the only contemporary filmmaker who uses the split screen but the practicioners are few. It's a surprisingly versatile technique which can reference additional artforms, show narrative parallels, provide style/eye candy, offer character P.O.V. or heighten the tension of some impending moment both images foretell. In this film, Aronofsky is mostly using it for P.O.V. purposes (Sara staring at the fridge) or as a visual metaphor for disconnectedness.
In one of the best scenes, Harry and Marion (Jared Leto and Jennfier Connelly, both giving the finest performances of their careers) do pillow talk. The images and the the dialogue convey both eroticism and emotional intimacy but the slightly out of sync eyelines and timing (note that the images aren't completely in sync since hands reach faces before arms move and the like) convey that something is broken. Their love may well be real but they're so far removed from their own realities that the connection is inherently false.
Harry: Hey, you know something? I always thought you were the most beautiful girl I ever seen.Marion: Really?Harry: Ever since I first saw you.Marion: That's nice Harry. Makes me feel really good. You know other people have told me that before and it was meaningless.Harry: Why is -- You thought they were pulling your leg?
Marion: No, no, not like that. I mean... I don't know or even care if they were. From them it was just meaningless, you know? You say it and I hear it. I really hear it.Harry: You know somebody like you could really make things all right for me.Marion: You think?
And one more. In a moment of true inspiration shortly afterwards, Aronofsky reminds us of this same self-medicated disconnection in what looks like a split screen but isn't.
Sara has just begun to grind her teeth and retreats to the bathroom mirror to investigate this new development. The diet drugs have kicked in and after a closeup of her shifting jaw, this image. She's not losing weight. She's losing her self.
"Be Excited. Be Be Excited"
Best Shot Participants
Best Shot Participants
- Nick's Flick Picks .....purple in the morning
- Brown Okinawa Assault ...blue in the afternoon
- Movies Kick Ass ........orange in the evening
- Stale Popcorn ...and green at night.
- My New Plaid Pants ... purple in the morning
(it's a ritual, see? Just keep repeating it.)
Previously on "Hit Me With Your Best Shot"
- Angels in America (2003)
- X-Men (2000)
- Showgirls (1995)
- Bring It On (2000)
- Black Narcissus (1946)
- A Face in the Crowd (1957)
- Pandora's Box (1929)
- Se7en (1995)