Not Just About Addiction: The Real Meaning of Aronofsky’s ‘Requiem for a Dream’
Year of production: 2000
Directed by: Darren Aronofsky
Actors: Jared Leto, Marlon Wayans, Jennifer Connelly
At first glance, the plot and meaning of the film “Requiem for a Dream” (Requiem for a Dream) is quite simple: it is a film about drug addiction. It talks about how mind-altering substances can affect the mind – and ultimately break a person’s life. But do not forget that the picture was shot by Darren Aronofsky, and in the films of this director there is always a double bottom.
What book is the movie based on?
Requiem for a Dream is based on the book of the same name by Hubert Selby Jr. The novel, which has exactly the same content as the film, was published in 1978.
Cover of Hubert Selby’s Requiem for a Dream. Photo taken from kobo.com
The director did not change anything in the film. The story told in the book and film has no historical context. It’s like “history in a vacuum.”
Brief description of the plot. A woman named Sara dreams of losing weight so she can star in a popular TV show. Her son Harry and his friend Tyrone dream of becoming rich, and Harry’s girlfriend Marion dreams of opening an atelier and also becoming fabulously rich.
It would seem that they all have a realizable dream, for the sake of which you don’t even need to move mountains. But still, the heroes, trying to achieve what they want, choose the wrong goals. This turns into a complete collapse of all hopes for each of them.
Three chapters of the film “Requiem for a Dream” – Summer, Autumn and Winter – show how the characters’ reactions to life’s difficulties change. These chapters symbolize struggle, passivity and flight, respectively.
All characters have the same problem. Lack of spirituality and a very modest cultural baggage form very unpretentious dreams in them.
Harry, his girlfriend Marion and Tyrone are drug addicts who recently sat on the needle tightly. They have not yet lost their human appearance and have not collapsed as individuals. The story of their coming to drug addiction is outside the content of the picture, and the viewer does not understand how it all happened.
The explanation for this can be found in the character of Sarah: she came to drug addiction by accident. More precisely, this happened because of a doctor who prescribed diet pills to a woman. The tablets contained amphetamines.
It is noteworthy that the life of the characters is divided into stages – the seasons: summer (life dawn), autumn (withering) and winter (death). And the spring, symbolizing rebirth, is not here …
Two friends – Harry and Tyrone. Starring Jared Leto and Marlon Waynes. Frame from the film.
This chapter shows a kind of episode of happiness and dawn in the lives of the heroes. If both guys and Marion have a good dealer business, then Sarah has a sincere belief in herself and in the TV show – albeit flavored with drugs.
When autumn arrives, Sarah realizes that her pill addiction has intensified. She has to increase the dose, and she begins to have terrible hallucinations. The woman tells the doctor about this, and he writes her another prescription. According to the doctor, Sarah should take the medicines according to this prescription for 7 days.
As time goes by, Sarah’s condition deteriorates rapidly. The hallucinations become so strong that the unfortunate woman slowly loses touch with reality. All this time, she desperately awaits the arrival of a telegram with an invitation to the show, but she is still not there.
Meanwhile, the guys start to have serious problems. There is a clash of gangs in the city, and the drugs suddenly disappear. Tyrone ends up in jail, and Harry and Marion use their savings to ransom their comrade.
The kids are getting more and more addicted. They have almost no money, and in order to get a dose, they go to extreme measures. Harry unwittingly pushes his girlfriend into prostitution – and for the sake of a dose, she goes to bed with a man who is unpleasant to her. Gradually, the relationship of lovers is crumbling.
The role of Marion Silver was played by Jennifer Connelly. Frame from the film.
Having survived another crash, Harry and Tyrone decide to go to Florida: there, in their opinion, it is much easier to get a dose. On the way, Harry notices that an infection has appeared in the vein where he injected the substances. Suppressing his anxiety, the young man still injects the drug into rotting flesh, and he becomes even worse.
Tyrone sends a delirious friend to the hospital. The doctor, realizing that he is dealing with drug addicts, reports them to the police, and the guys end up in prison.
Meanwhile, Marion goes for a dose to a certain “Baby John”, who promises her drugs in exchange for participating in an orgy. After hesitating, the girl agrees.
Sarah gets on the show, but there is an unpleasant incident, after which the woman ends up in a psychiatric hospital. She is prescribed drug therapy, but she has already developed immunity to the drugs. The only treatment for her is electric shock.
The meaning of the ending
Closer to the finale, it becomes clear that every hero of the film “Requiem for a Dream” lost the fight with drugs. At the end of the film, each of them curls up into a fetal position. According to psychologists, when a person brings his knees to the body and lowers his head, he is thus trying to escape into a certain comfort zone.
Thus, it can be assumed that the meaning of the ending of the film “Requiem for a Dream” is that the characters tried to fence themselves off from the horror they experienced.
Ellen Burstyn as Sarah Goldfarb, Harry’s mother. Frame from the film.
The main idea of the film “Requiem for a Dream” is not only the negative impact of drugs on all spheres of human life. Although this idea has a place to be. The meaning of the film becomes clear towards the end. The explanation of the ending looks like this: in an effort to achieve the goal, a person sometimes chooses the wrong path, and the road along which he goes at the same time leads him to the abyss.
For the heroes of the film “Requiem for a Dream” the wrong choice is the decision to connect their lives with drugs. At the end of the picture, they sink to the very social bottom, not even fully understanding what they were striving for …
Drugs here are not part of the film’s meaning, but the basis for the setting. The fact is that the title of the film is not quite correctly interpreted: this is a requiem not for a dream, but for dreams.
The film tells that we live in dreams and illusions. Love actually turns out to be love, short-term material success subsequently turns into even greater problems than before, and universal recognition, which is actually not universal, and not recognition at all, leads to terrible consequences.
At the same time, we constantly feed our addictions and desires, but no matter how real these very dreams may seem to us, sooner or later the cozy little world will collapse and a series of consequences of our decisions will fall on us.
To a greater extent, the meaning of this movie lies in how a person, absorbed in the “American dream”, is chasing primitive desires, on which he is “planted” by advertising a happy life. As a result, he loses the meaning of life and his own existence.
All people are sitting on doses of happiness, instilled not only by TV, but also by the Internet. Everyone is zombified in this world of consumption … People are less and less happy about this, and they have to work more and more for the sake of the dose.
A better understanding of the meaning of the film “Requiem for a Dream” can be helped by the soundtrack “Eternal Light” (by the way, it was not written by Mozart, as many mistakenly believe, but by Clint Mansell). This is a funeral mass. And the further the events of the film go, the scarier it seems.
There seems to be no hidden meaning in the film “Requiem for a Dream”. There are no complex riddles that require clues. However, in their analysis and reviews, attentive viewers find other interpretations of the events and the finale of the picture.
There is an opinion that the heroes of the film do not die from drugs at all, but from life itself. What would change in their lives if they did not take drugs? Judging by the setting, by the unfortunate TV that the buyer didn’t want, they’re not even middle class. Harry, Tyrone and Marion are ordinary people. There is no way for them to get out of the position in which they were born. However, they dream… In the film, the destruction of this dream takes place – bright, spectacular, and scary.
For the same ordinary people, not drug addicts and in trouble with the law, life flows differently: they slowly fade away in their apartments. And many of them are quite smart, but, despite a good certificate and diploma, they work in catering or at gas stations – and it seems that this is also called life.
In general, ironically, the only character whose dream came true in one way or another is Sarah. However, only she does not have the opportunity to return to her former life.
For the rest of the heroes, everything is possible, if only they decide to quit drugs and go to rehab. But will they dare to do so? Aronofsky does not answer this question. This film has an open ending, and each viewer decides whether the glass is half full or empty.