Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Requiem for a Dream

Requiem for a Dream is about as different a film from The Wrestler as you could imagine, at least in terms of style. They're both good, sad films, but they tell their stories in very different ways. They're on completely opposite ends of the naturalism spectrum. Requiem uses the medium of film itself to convey mood, and along with all the stylistic touches it's a very effective technique. Very basically, it's a movie about addiction, as four interconnected all people go from casual users of various drugs to becoming completely addicted and stuck in horrible situations. Time dilation conveys the meaninglessness of time when under the influence, SnorriCam (a camera mounted so it's always looking at the actor's face) shots show disorientation and trauma, and a signature super close-up/fast cut shot depicts the many different ways the characters take their drugs. As they descend deeper into their struggles, scenes get shorter and shorter and the cuts get faster and faster before it all becomes overwhelming to watch, and sort of pulls you into the horrors they are facing.

It's a well-told story, although for whatever reason I found myself struggling to connect with the characters. Maybe it's because I knew they were doomed from the outset, but I found myself intrigued by their struggles rather than concerned. The acting is good - leads Jared Leto and Jennifer Connelly are a likable couple before their need to get high pulls them apart, Marlon Wayans is surprisingly solid as Leto's friend who helps him get involved with dealing, and Ellen Burstyn got an Academy Award nomination for her startling descent from standard old lady to pill popping train wreck. But while the film work was good at putting you in another mindset, it was also at times gimmicky, and seemed to reduce the weight of what was happening when it was trying too hard to be clever. I have an inkling I would have liked it more in high school, but there was something odd about seeing something as heavy as crippling drug addiction often get depicted by cutesy camera cuts. It was less like a film and more like a visual experiment. A really good one, but less effective than it might have been otherwise.

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