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Requiem for a Dream

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.

Requiem for a Dream
Photo of an eye (top), movie title (middle), and a photo of a person standing on a pier (bottom)
Theatrical release poster
Directed byDarren Aronofsky
Produced by
  • Eric Watson
  • Palmer West
Screenplay by
Based onRequiem for a Dream
by Hubert Selby, Jr.
Music byClint Mansell
CinematographyMatthew Libatique
Edited byJay Rabinowitz
Distributed byArtisan Entertainment
Release date
  • May 14, 2000 (2000-05-14) (Cannes)
  • October 27, 2000 (2000-10-27) (US)
  • November 3, 2000 (2000-11-03) (Canada)
Running time
101 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$4.5 million
Box office$7.4 million[2]

The film depicts four different forms of drug addiction, which lead to each character being imprisoned in a world of delusion and reckless desperation that is subsequently overtaken by reality, thus leaving them as hollow shells of their former selves.[3]

Requiem for a Dream was screened out of competition at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival[4] and received positive reviews from critics upon its U.S. release. Burstyn was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance.



During the summer in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, widow Sara Goldfarb spends her time watching infomercials. Meanwhile, her son, Harry, occasionally pawns her television set to fund his girlfriend Marion's and Tyrone's (his best friend) drug use.

After Sara receives a call that she has won a spot on a television game show, she becomes excited about attending it. To fit back into her red dress, the favorite of her deceased husband Seymour, she attempts to lose weight through unsuccessful diets. At the recommendation of a friend, she visits an unscrupulous physician who prescribes her a regimen of weight-loss amphetamines. She begins losing weight, and is excited by how much energy she has.

Harry and Tyrone plan to sell heroin to make enough to live off; that summer, their small-time dealing business thrives. Harry and Marion plan to open up a dress shop for Marion's designs, and Tyrone dreams of escaping the ghetto to make his mother proud. Sara and her friends wait expectantly every day for the game show invitation to arrive. With the extra money, Harry stops by to tell his mother he ordered her a new television set, but when he implores her to get off the amphetamines, she confesses that the only thing she has to live for anymore is the dream of looking glamorous on a television stage, and the extra attention she receives now from her friends.

As Sara’s tolerance for the amphetamines increases, she craves the high she once had, while becoming frantic about the invitation. When she increases her dosage she develops amphetamine psychosis. During a drug deal, Tyrone is caught in a shootout between the two rival gangs. He attempts to flee the scene, but is arrested. Harry has to use most of their earned money to post bail. The local supply of heroin becomes restricted, and they are unable to find any for either use or sale. Eventually, Tyrone hears of a large shipment coming, but the price is doubled and the minimum high. Harry, desperate, suggests Marion ask her psychiatrist, Arnold, for money in exchange for sex, straining their relationship. When the drug buy goes bad, Harry returns empty-handed to Marion. He departs after giving her the number of a pimp, Big Tim, who trades heroin for sex. Harry and Tyrone decide that to put their business back on track; they will drive to Florida to buy directly from the wholeseller there.

After a series of horrifying hallucinations, Sara flees her apartment for the office of the casting agency in Manhattan, to confirm when she will be on TV. She is taken away by ambulance and committed to a psychiatric ward where she is subjected to degrading treatments. When none work, the physician induces a barely lucid Sara to approve electroconvulsive therapy.

On the drive to Miami, Harry and Tyrone visit a hospital because of Harry's increasingly infected needle injection sites. The doctor notices the symptoms of drug abuse, and Harry and Tyrone are arrested. Back in New York, a desperate Marion has sex with the pimp to get heroin. Recognizing her addiction, he entices her with a bigger score of heroin if she returns that weekend for a party. Tyrone is taunted by racist prison guards whilst enduring manual labor. Harry’s infected arm is amputated. Sara undergoes violent electroshock therapy. Marion is humiliated as the subject of a graphic sex show.

When Sara's friends come to the hospital to visit, they are distraught by her almost vegetative state. Harry wakes emotionally distraught after the amputation, knowing that Marion will not be visiting him. Tyrone thinks of his mother in prison and suffers from drug withdrawal. Marion comes home from the show and lies on her sofa, clutching her score of heroin. Sara dreams that she is on television, and has won the grand prize, with Harry as the guest of honor.



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 bathtub scene in the film was inspired by Satoshi Kon's 1997 anime film Perfect Blue.[5]


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.[6][7]

However, Aronofsky has said:[8]

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.


As in his previous film, π, Aronofsky uses montages of extremely short shots throughout the film (sometimes termed a hip hop montage).[6] 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.[6][9] 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.[10]

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.[9] Aronofsky aims to subjectivize emotion, and the effect of his stylistic choices is personalization rather than alienation.[10] The camera serves as a vehicle for exploring the characters' states of mind, hallucinations, visual distortions, and corrupted sense of time.[11]

The film's distancing itself from empathy is structurally advanced by the use of intertitles (Summer, Fall, Winter), marking the temporal progress of addiction.[10] 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.[9]


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.[12] 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 for "drug depiction, coarse language and sex".[1] In Australia the film was rated R18+ by the ACB for "drug use and adult themes".

Critical receptionEdit

Requiem for a Dream received positive reviews from critics and has an approval rating of 78% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 134 reviews, with an average rating of 7.4/10. The critical consensus states, "Though the movie may be too intense for some to stomach, the wonderful performances and the bleak imagery are hard to forget."[13] The film also has a score of 68 out of 100 on Metacritic based on 32 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews."[14] Film critic James Berardinelli considered Requiem for a Dream the second best film of the decade, behind The Lord of the Rings film trilogy.[15] Roger Ebert gave the film 3½ stars out of four, stating that "What is fascinating about Requiem for a Dream, how well [Aronofsky] portrays the mental states of his addicts. When they use, a window opens briefly into a world where everything is right. Then it slides shut, and life reduces itself to a search for the money and drugs to open it again."[16] Elvis Mitchell, writing for The New York Times, gave the film a positive review, stating that "After the young director's phenomenal debut with the barely budgeted Pi, which was like watching a middleweight boxer win a fight purely on reflexes, he comes back with a picture that shows maturation."[17]

Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian, lauded the film. "His agonising and unflinchingly grim portrait of drug abuse, taken from a novel by Hubert Selby Jr (with whom Aronofsky co-wrote the screenplay), is a formally pleasing piece of work - if pleasing can possibly be the right word."[18] Peter Travers of Rolling Stone wrote that "no one interested in the power and magic of movies should miss it."[19] Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly, who gave the work an "A" grade, argued that it "may be the first movie to fully capture the way drugs dislocate us from ourselves" and said, "The movie, a full-throttle mind-bender, is hypnotically harrowing and intense, a visual and spiritual plunge into the seduction and terror of drug addiction."[20] Scott Brake of IGN gave the film a 9.0 out of 10 and argued, "The reason it works so well as a film about addiction is that, in every frame, the film itself is addictive. It's absolutely relentless, from Aronofsky's bravura cinematic techniques (split screens, complex cross-cutting schemes, hallucinatory visuals) to Clint Mansell's driving, hypnotic score (performed by the Kronos Quartet), the movie compels you to watch it."[21]

Some critics were less positive, however. On Mr. Showbiz, Kevin Maynard stated that the film is "never the heart-wrenching emotional experience it seems intended to be." J. Rentilly billed the work as "chilling and technically proficient and, also, fairly hollow." Desson Thompson of The Washington Post argued that its characters are "mostly relegated to human mannequins in Aronofsky's visual schemes". David Sterritt of the Christian Science Monitor wrote that "Aronofsky's filmmaking gets addicted to its own flashy cynicism".[22]


Ellen Burstyn was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role as Sara Goldfarb,[23] but lost to Julia Roberts in the title role of Erin Brockovich. 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.[24]

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).[25] In 2012, the Motion Picture Editors Guild listed Requiem for a Dream as the 29th best-edited film of all time based on a survey of its members.[26] In a 2016 international critics' poll conducted by BBC, the film, Toni Erdmann and Carlos were tied together and were three voted together as the 100 greatest motion pictures since 2000.[27]


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 was re-released with the album Requiem for a Dream: Remixed, which contains remixes of the music by Paul Oakenfold, Josh Wink, Jagz Kooner, and Delerium, among others.

"Lux Aeterna" is an orchestral composition by Mansell, the leitmotif of Requiem for a Dream, and the penultimate piece in the film's soundtrack. The popularity of this piece led to its use in popular culture outside the film, in film and teaser trailers,[28] and with multiple remixes and remakes by other producers.[29]

In popular cultureEdit

The movie was referenced in The Simpsons episode "I'm Spelling As Fast As I Can" where Homer gets addicted to the latest Krusty Burger called Ribwich, he gets instant-hit happiness to the tune of Requiem-style cuts.[30]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b "REQUIEM FOR A DREAM (18)". British Board of Film Classification. November 23, 2000. Retrieved January 1, 2013.
  2. ^ "Requiem for a Dream (2000)". Box Office Mojo. January 1, 2002. Retrieved January 1, 2013.
  3. ^ Ebert, Roger (November 3, 2000). "Requiem for a Dream". Ebert Digital LLC. Retrieved May 31, 2018.
  4. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Requiem for a Dream". Retrieved October 17, 2009.
  5. ^ "The cult Japanese filmmaker that inspired Darren Aronofsky". Dazed. August 27, 2015.
  6. ^ a b c Booker, M. (2007). Postmodern Hollywood. New York: Praeger. ISBN 0-275-99900-9.
  7. ^ Boyd, Susan (2008). Hooked. New York: Routledge. pp. 97–98. ISBN 0-415-95706-0.
  8. ^ "It's a punk movie". (October 13, 2000). Retrieved 2018-10-12.
  9. ^ a b c Dancyger, Ken (2002). The Technique of Film and Video Editing. London: Focal. pp. 257–258. ISBN 0-240-80420-1.
  10. ^ a b c Powell, Anna (2007). Deleuze, Altered States and Film. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. p. 75. ISBN 0-7486-3282-4.
  11. ^ Skorin-Kapov, Jadranka (2015) Darren Aronofsky's Films and the Fragility of Hope, p.32 Bloomsbury Academic
  12. ^ 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 November 1, 2011.
  13. ^ "Requiem for a Dream Movie Reviews". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved December 12, 2010.
  14. ^ "Requiem for a Dream Reviews". Metacritic. n.d. Retrieved October 26, 2014.
  15. ^ "Top 10 Movies of the Decade". Retrieved March 1, 2011
  16. ^ Ebert, Roger (November 3, 2000). "Requiem for a Dream". Ebert Digital LLC. Retrieved May 31, 2018.
  17. ^ Mitchell, Elvis (October 6, 2000). "Movie Review: Requiem for a Dream". The New York Times. Retrieved December 13, 2014.
  18. ^ Bradshaw, Peter (January 18, 2001). "Living in Oblivion". The Guardian. Retrieved December 13, 2014.
  19. ^ Travers, Peter (December 11, 2000). "Requiem for a Dream". Rolling Stone. Retrieved December 13, 2014.
  20. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (October 13, 2000). "Movie Review: 'Requiem for a Dream' Review". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved December 13, 2014.
  21. ^ "Review of Requiem for a Dream". IGN. October 20, 2000. Retrieved December 13, 2004.
  22. ^ "Critic Reviews for Requiem for a Dream". Metacritic. Retrieved February 11, 2017.
  23. ^ Lyman, Rick (March 4, 2001). "OSCAR FILMS/ACTORS: An Angry Man and an Underused Woman; Ellen Burstyn Enjoys Her Second Act". The New York Times.
  24. ^ "Award Nominees – 2000". The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved March 22, 2012.
  25. ^ AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) Ballot
  26. ^ "The 75 Best Edited Films". Editors Guild Magazine. 1 (3). May 2012.
  27. ^ "The 21st century's 100 greatest films". BBC. August 23, 2016. Retrieved January 12, 2017.
  28. ^ Smith, C. Molly. "The ubiquitous 'Requiem for a Dream' score is 15 years old". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 6 March 2018.
  29. ^ Ebert, Roger (2002-11-17). "The Movie Answer Man". Retrieved 2014-01-08.
  30. ^ Dihum, Nathan (6 June 2009). "The 50 Greatest Simpsons Movie References". Games Radar. Retrieved 2018-11-30.

External linksEdit