Requiem for a Dream (2000)

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Released 12-Nov-2001

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio
Audio Commentary-Darren Aronofsky (Director)
Audio Commentary-Matthew Libatique (Director of Photography)
Featurette-B-Roll
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Interviews-Cast & Crew
Featurette-Making Of
Deleted Scenes-8
Production Notes
Theatrical Trailer-2
Featurette-Memories, Dreams & Addictions
Easter Egg-Tappy Tibbons Infomercial
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 2000
Running Time 97:00 (Case: 101)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (94:44) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Darren Aronofsky
Studio
Distributor

Magna Home Entertainment
Starring Ellen Burstyn
Jared Leto
Jennifer Connelly
Marlon Wayans
Case Click
RPI $34.95 Music Clint Mansell


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

   It is rare for a movie to be totally depressing and yet thoroughly enjoyable, but Requiem for a Dream is both. Director Daron Aronofsky has adapted the novel by Hubert Selby, written in the mid 70's, into a more modern version of Selby's dark and despairing world of drugs and addiction. There isn't much of the original novel left in the movie, for those that have read this depressing tome, but there is still the sense of malaise, the highs and lows experienced by his characters and that dreadful journey into darkness that permeated his original work. Aronofsky uses a lot of cinematic techniques to get across this slide into oblivion and does it with some obvious relish and supreme competency. Much like his first movie, what results is so much in the eye of the beholder, it's either a classic or a really depressing movie about drugs and drug usage.

    Addiction comes in many forms and Aronofsky offers up more than just the usual cocaine and heroin. One of his central characters, Sara, is addicted to television, chocolate and diet pills. There are much more subtle drugs that we take for granted because their insidiousness is not apparent and only when abused can they cause problems. He also uses a sense of isolation to distance his characters so that their cravings, which slowly eat into their very core, find no refuge in the warmth of relationships and the breakdown of reality that follows ends up leaving them devastated, broken and mere shadows of their former selves. This is by no means a pretty picture and he cuts no corners or tries to leave the viewer with any skerrick of pity for these people, yet you still feel remorse for their situation which is testament to both the actors and script.

   The movie begins with Harry Goldfarb (Jared Leto) stealing his mother's TV so he can sell it for drugs. Sara Goldfarb (Ellen Burstyn) locks herself in her bedroom. A strangely compelling beginning uses a split screen effect to isolate this mother and son in the same apartment. As we see Harry and his best friend Tyrone (Marlon Wayans) pushing the TV and table across the backdrop of Coney Island, the starkness of the landscape is apparent, but there is a rosiness to the sunlight that speaks of warmth. This is the beginning of Summer, when things look fine and everything is still fresh and calm. After scoring some dope, Harry meets up with Marion (Jennifer Connolly), his long time girlfriend and they proceed to pass some time, make love and do what young people do.

   Meantime, Sara goes down to the beach and retrieves her TV and retires back to her tenement apartment where she's lived since her husband died. All alone now, Sara is a chocoholic (aren't we all?) and loves her TV programs. The one she's hooked on at this time is a form of infomercial run by a character called Tappy Tibbons (Chris MacDonald in an outstanding cameo role) whose catch-cry is JUICE or Join Us In Creating Excellence and who lives by 3 rules (two of which are 1. No red meat and 2. No refined sugar, number 3 you must discover for yourself). Life for Sara is pretty ordinary. She occasionally joins her friends out the front of the tenement but otherwise she lives pretty much on her own, until one day when she receives an anonymous phone call informing her she's been selected to appear on a TV quiz show. Informing her friends, she becomes all excited when the application form comes in the mail and she scurries to send it off quickly. Then her thoughts turn to what to wear when she gets her call from the station. Her decision is to wear her favourite red dress, but this has momentous consequences when she realises she is several (or more) kilos overweight and she begins a diet of grapefruit, one egg and a piece of toast in order to slim down.

   Harry and Tyrone have their own plans to buy some dope and sell it so they don't have to keep pinching Harry's mum's TV for a fix. Their ultimate plan is to buy a 'kilo of pure' and live off the profits and they begin by selling small quantities and collecting enough money to fulfil their dream. Things are good, selling is easy and they think nothing of taking the odd hit here and there, 'just to test the merchandise' of course. Marion is busy planning her new line of clothing for the shops she wants to open and everything looks rosy. Sara meantime is having a few problems with the diet and after talking to her friends visits a doctor who prescribes diet pills to aid in her plans to lose weight. Naturally she has no concept of control and begins popping pills without any regard for what she is doing. As Summer winds down, so do all four characters. What began with such optimism and hope slowly wends its way towards the abyss. Each of the characters slowly loses their sense of reality and the rosiness slowly fades to Fall.

   Fall begins to take its toll on each of the four characters. Sara is becoming delusional, Harry is losing sense of proportion, taking more and more hits, Marion is becoming dependant upon Harry who is also beginning to lose his grip on reality. As times get bleaker, drugs become harder to find and cost more, so they end up dipping into the money they had planned to use to score big-time. Even when they get an opportunity to score big, the dealer they connect with is shot, leaving Tyrone in trouble with the police. Sara is becoming thin, losing weight heavily but she's also become hyperactive and her reality sees her fantasising about being part of Tappy Tibbons' TV show. All the while, her refrigerator is starting to slowly come alive as it is being neglected. The downward spiral is evident and Aronofsky takes great care in slowly devolving each of his characters into shadows of their former selves.

   The final act is Winter, which sees each of them falling into their own version of hell. I can honestly say it's not pleasant what each of them becomes and there was a fair amount of uneasiness watching parts of the last twenty minutes, but it is very well done. Aronofsky certainly pulls no punches and cares nothing about sparing his characters any indignity which adds to the verisimilitude of the events that transpire. If you ever want a film to show kids about the evils of drug abuse, this would qualify as one, as you are spared nothing. Ellen Burstyn was nominated for an Academy Award for her part in this movie (won by Julia Roberts in Erin Brockovich) and it's not hard to see why some people believe it is a pity she didn't win. The other members of the cast are also exceptional and for those of you that desire something that isn't in the typical mold, this is one to get.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    A quality transfer is no less than this movie deservers and that is what it gets. Some minor issues only are the order of the day.

    This is presented in its original theatrical release aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is 16x9 enhanced for your enjoyment.

    Light but persistent grain inhabits this movie during most scenes. At no time, though, does it threaten to be any more than a minor issue. The crispness of the movie is more variable, though, and slight blurriness is visible during many scenes. There is minimal edge enhancement in use which was pleasing. Shadow detail is lessened by the general blurriness of the backgrounds where fine detail goes missing during lots of the movie. Most of this was more a directorial/cinematic decision than anything to do with the transfer though, since when something needs to be sharply in focus, sharpness is there in copious quantity. Low level noise was not an issue throughout.

    The colour used in the movie is quite interesting. The only red used was in Sara's dress which was a deliberate effect designed to enhance its presence. All other colours were quite normal in usage with a broad spectrum of colours on offer from light pinks of the summer to blues and other colours for cold and winter. The palette was expertly used for best effect and skin tones maintained a normalcy throughout. Neither chroma noise nor colour bleed was an issue in this transfer.

    Surprisingly there are few if any MPEG, film or video artefacts to speak of. Some slight aliasing on a light fitting at 13:52 is about as bad as it gets and most of the little film blemishes you normally get are confined to slight black marks that do not cause any great annoyance. There were a couple of very fleeting white scratches but nothing reportable. Overall, this is a very well presented transfer.

    There were no subtitles on this disc.

    A more perfect layer change you will not find. It comes during the closing credits at 94:44 where it is welcome to pause as long as it likes.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The soundtrack for this movie is in Dolby Digital 5.1 at 384 kilobits per second which is fairly reasonable. The actual sound, though, is exceptional for what it is with plenty of dynamic range on offer and some excellent enveloping features to the music. The fronts offer up a spaciousness which was very welcome, especially with the driving music present throughout. The addition of good subwoofer usage and a generous portion of surround work means that you have an inviting soundtrack through and through.

    The dialogue was so important to the movie, with it lacking any subtitles at all, that it needed to be spot-on and was. No audio syncing problems were noted

    It would probably be fair to say that the Kronos Quartet, who add most of the orchestral pieces for the movie, provide the majority of the soundtrack in terms of background, while Clint Mansell, who is given first billing for the music actually adds in most of the incidental music and then creates an homogenous mix from all the disparate elements. The use of the Kronos Quartet is quite inspired as they don't add the overpowering nature of a full orchestra, but Aronofsky wanted the more subtle elements this group could bring and also to score the more monotonous refrain that permeates the movie (you'll hear it overlaid on the main menu). When more aggressive sound is required, Mansell chimes in with some excellent additional music and techno beats that pump up the volume considerable. All-in-all, this is an excellent music soundtrack with lots of diversity and plenty of character.

   The surrounds are effectively used during the movie but only occasionally will they burst into life and present themselves with excellent immersiveness. For the most part, they are content to sit in the background and add to the music giving a fuller presence to the sound. Only on rare occasions do they become highly active (eg: 51:30). Naturally, much of the movie doesn't require active surround work but they do their job nicely when needed.

    The subwoofer isn't used as consistently as the surrounds since there is little need of its services during long periods of the movie. Actively adding deep bass to the techno music is one of its more useful services but it does lie dormant for much of the movie.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Main Menu Audio

    Snip from the main musical score that plays endlessly in a loop over a static picture.

Audio Commentary

    Darren Aronofsky isn't the worst speaker in the world, but yet again this is probably only going to appeal to those that would like more insight into the making of the movie. For me, the commentary was decent without being spectacular but I have been spoiled lately. Offered up are interesting details on the use of the Kronos Quartet in the musical score, where his idea for Tappy Tibbons came from (self-motivational speakers you see advertised on TV) and the use of TV as a drug of addiction. He's a good talker who doesn't talk about screen-specific stuff all the time and fills the void nicely during the entire movie.

Audio Commentary

    Director of Cinematography, Matthew Libatique does a second commentary on this disc but this one is absolutely for the addict. I admit I didn't listen to this right through, otherwise I might have put my head through a brick wall, since details on making a specific shot with a Panaflex Mark 4 with F4 focal plane shutter while standing on one foot with a cork up one's a*** isn't my idea of entertainment. If you are about to make a movie or are an absolute nut about photography then you'll love this. For the rest of us mere mortals, it's a little on the tedious side. Still, at least he talks well, for a camera-hound.

Featurette B-Roll - 1.33:1 - 9:38.

    This feature is about the set-up of and the taking of two specific shots in the movie, those being taking the TV to the pawnbrokers and Sarah joining the others outside on the footpath. Interesting perspective from the other side of the camera and how the effects were achieved.

Biographies-Cast & Crew

    Biographies of Ellen Burstyn, Jennifer Connelly, Jared Leto, Marlon Wayans, Daron Aronofsky and Eric Watson.

Interviews-Cast & Crew

    Interviews accompany the biographies as follows:

Featurette-Making Of

    At 35:20, this featurette, shot in 4x3, is a little bit of everything regarding the movie with a voice-over by Daron Aronofsky. This shows setting up of different shots and how the setup varies, time lapse photography used for the scene where Sarah is frantically cleaning, special effects and how they were accomplished, more setup shots, costumes, set design, deleted scenes that Aronofsky cut out even though filmed, on-site location shots and doing the sound with the Kronos Quartet. A very entertaining half an hour or so.

Deleted Scenes

    There are 8 deleted scenes on offer here, although some include rehearsal material, alternate takes and what amount to extended scenes. They are all run together in a single mass, so timing is only approximate on each individual scene and most of them look to be in 1.85:1 not 16x9 enhanced format:    One thing to note is an audible hiss in the sound in On the road to Florida.

Production Notes

    13 pages of notes for your delectation.

Theatrical Trailer

    There are two trailers here.    Both are decent quality with few problems.

Featurette - Memories, Dream and Additions - 1.33:1, 19:44 and Dolby Digital Mono sound

    This is a strange little feature consisting of an interview conducted by Ellen Burstyn with the author of the novel Requiem for a Dream, Hubert Selby about his original work and his life. If I call it strange it's because Selby was definitely a piece of work, full of rage, anger and intelligence even though he left school after the 8th grade. At times you get the feeling that he's going to explode or become violent, but he's a very old man (near death at the time). At other times he's almost crying. The sound was hollow at times and I found myself straining to understand what was being said.

Easter Egg

- This is supposed to be available from the main menu by pressing enter on the joint Tyrone is smoking, but my player couldn't do this, so for those that missed it, select Title 15, Chapter 1 for a 7:25 informercial from Tappy Tibbons (Chris MacDonald) in true TV style including all those lovely 'call now on 1-900-523-JUICE plugs to buy the product. Great little extra and thanks to one of our readers for picking up on it.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    There appear to be a couple of differences with this release in Region 1 including menu format. The Region 4 disc misses out on:

    The Region 1 disc misses out on nothing.

    Buyer's choice on this one since the differences are marginal.

Summary

    Requiem For A Dream is not an easy movie to watch by any stretch of the imagination unless you enjoy the suffering of others, but it is an important movie because it tells a despairing and dark tale without any excess baggage. Those with delicate sensibilities might want to avoid this. Those with stronger dispositions and who love something a little obtuse might want to give this a look as it's definitely different and so beautifully made it's a testament to both cast and the director.

    The transfer is excellent visually with minor flaws that you need to look for to criticise. Otherwise, this is real film quality in every sense of the word.

    A soft, lilting and monotonous sounding background soundtrack is augmented by some driving techno beats that lift this above the mundane and give added support to the video elements.

    An extras package that is a heavyweight on its own rounds out a superb disc. Two audio commentaries, deleted scenes and various makings-of put this in the quality for money bracket.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Carl Berry (read my bio)
Friday, November 08, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba SD5300, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Xelos (81cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderRotel RSP-976. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationRotel RB 985 MkII
SpeakersJBL TLX16s Front Speakers, Polk Audio LS fx di/bipole Rear Speakers, Polk Audio CS350-LS Centre Speaker, M&KV-75 Subwoofer

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