Jarv’s Best of 2000-2009. Number 4: Requiem for a Dream

Any of these top 4 could have been number 1. In fact, this was (until I rewatched it a few  nights ago) pencilled in as number 1, but on reflection it’s just too damned miserable to take the top spot.Requiem for a Dream is Aronofsky’s follow-up to his outstanding Pi, and this is the film that confirmed him as a real talent to watch. This is not, and I can’t stress this enough, easy viewing. Rather, Requiem reaches down your gullet, rips your heart out and then, just for laughs, stomps it into the ground. This is the film, that proves that Marlon Wayans doesn’t have to suck, and that Jennifer Connelly is not only heartbreaking to look at, but brilliant on the screen. It confirms that Ellen Burstyn is a classy actress, and that Jared Leto is more than a pretty boy.

Requiem for a Dream is the story of four Brooklyn residents (I keep reading Coney Island everywhere in reviews but they’re wrong- they even say in the film “From Brooklyn Beach”) Sarah and Harry Goldfarb, his girlfriend Marion, and they’re friend Tyrone, who all dream of better things, and who’s futile dreams get shattered in the face of drug addiction. Sarah wants to be on Television, Harry and Tyrone want money, and Lord alone knows what Marion wants other than her next fix (parental acceptance perhaps). However, while their dreams all seem easily attainable in the summer sunshine, the reality is that they have more chance of walking on the moon.

This film is harrowing. Watching four lives crumble on-screen is never going to be easy viewing, but this takes it to a new level. Aronofsky is a flashy director, and uses devices such as “hip hop montage” that intrude into the narrative. Any time drugs are taken, regardless of the drug, the screen is split and the viewer is bombarded with a series of brief images. In most films, this would be intrusive and unpleasant to watch. It would yank the viewer out of the experience, and break the relationship between watcher and film. In Requiem, however, it seems to fit. The whole film is like a nightmarish trip gone bad anyhow, and the fragmentation rather than disrupting the viewing, actually helps immerse you further into the experience. Aside from this, he films several sequences in hyper speed: a 25 second sequence of amphetamine addled Sarah Goldfarb cleaning her apartment is actually 30 minutes of film.

This film has a horrendous reputation, and that is effectively down to two things- the first was Artisan’s incredibly brave decision to tell the MPAA to fuck off and release it without a certificate in America. This guaranteed 2 things- the first was commercial death, and the second was a cult following. The second, and for my purposes, far more important reason for its reputation as the antichrist of drugs cinema is that the last third of it (The “Winter” section) is by far the most  excruciating 30 minutes that I have ever seen on film. The sheer misery of the intercut sequences of Sarah’s agonising ECT, Harry’s amputation, Ty being abused in jail, and (most memorably) Marion “performing” with a double ended dildo in front of a baying crowd to a soundtrack of Lux Aeterna mixed with industrial noises is a gruelling experience to watch. It’s relentless, wonderfully performed, and technically outstanding. It may well be the finest half an hour of cinema in the 21st Century (so far). The suspicion does linger, though, that Aronofsky spent the first two third’s of the film setting up his targets just for this demolition.

There are 2 scenes that I need to discuss that are perhaps less showy than the notorious section, but that I believe are two moments of sheer genius. The first is the meeting between Harry and Sarah when he twigs that she’s on speed. This sequence is wonderfully written, and Aronofsky manages to resist the temptation to throw in split screens, fast cuts, montages, Lux Aeterna and the rest of it. Instead the camera pans slowly around the room and allows both actors to show their best moment. Leto  is outstanding here, and it would take an absolute heart of stone not to feel pity at the look on his face during it.  However, the moment that has Mrs. Jarv reaching for the tissues is when Sarah explains why the red dress is so important- when she says “Did you see who had the best place in the sun” the sheer loneliness and misery of her life is laid bare on the screen. This is a woman by herself with nothing to live for. Her life is so empty that appearing on a crappy gameshow is the equivalent of a lottery win. The second scene, and it’s little more than a shot, is right at the end. When the 2 old ladies visit a broken Sarah in the hospital, Aronofsky manages to capture a look of utter horror on both their faces that tells more of a tale than the preceding half an hour. The shot of a white-haired and broken Sarah is almost unnecessary, as we’ve already seen in their eyes what she has become. The real sucker punch comes afterwards, however, when the next time we see them, they’re holding each other on a bus bench and crying for their friend. It’s a necessary moment of catharsis for both the characters and the viewers and is simply magnificent.

Before I sign off- there are 2 moments of trivia to be seen in this film: lunatic nutjob author Hubert Selby Jr plays the prison guard that abuses Tyrone, and Keith David (always welcome in any film) plays Big Tim who has the stupendous line “I know it’s pretty, but I didn’t get it out for air”. How cool.

Requiem for a Dream is the film that was brave enough to stand by its own dogma- it’s an uncompromising, relentless, harrowing, heart-breaking work of absolute brilliance, and while it may not be rewatchable for most (who could sit through this more than once every so often), it’s a film that draws me back every few years, and each time sticks a hot knife in my soul.

As Tappy says: “We’ve got a winner”

Next up, its Japanese school children killing each other in the demented Asian Lord of The Flies: Battle Royale.

Until Then,


I can’t be bothered to put in all the links, but the top 10 so far is:

10: Tsotsi,


8: Daisy

7: The Descent

6: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

5: This is England.

If you haven’t read them, or the regional lists, and are remotely interested they can be found here.

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About Jarv

Workshy cynic, given to posting reams of nonsense on the internet and watching films that have inexplicably got a piss poor reputation.

73 responses to “Jarv’s Best of 2000-2009. Number 4: Requiem for a Dream”

  1. Jarv says :

    The real reason (just in case you were wondering) that this isn’t number 1 is that it introduced hack marketing directors to Lux Aeterna which has since been battered into the floor in 1 million fucking trailers- Lord of The Rings: The Two Towers, for example.

  2. Jarv says :

    Fucking bastards.

    Are those 2 pictures blocked?

    *After edit*

    Fucking block me. There’s more than one way to skin a cat.

  3. kloipy says :

    this is a great review Jarv, and a great pick as I haven’t seen it on probably any decade lists yet. This movie haunted me for weeks after seeing it. It was one of those movies that when it was over, I didn’t want to talk about it, didn’t want to be around anyone. This movie knows how to hurt you

  4. Bartleby says :

    This si your best review yet, Jarv. Great work. You realy capture what the movie is doing via it’s stylistic choices very well.

    That scene with the old ladies on the park bench is, as you say, devastating.

    Another bit of trivia, which blew my mind when I first saw this film. The last shot is almost identical to that final shot of Dark City (one of my all time favorite films) with Jennifer Connelly standing on the end of the pier.

    Strangely, a few years later, House of Sand and Fog ended with another almost identical shot, Connelly again at the end of a pier. I’d love to line the three up sometime and see just how similar they all are.

    I’ve liked all of Aronofsky’s films thus far, but The Wrestler is my least favorite. It’s more of a ‘good’ movie, well done, but without the impact of his other three. For my money, it’s The Fountain that is his best work, but that may be because I feel I can rewatch that one compulsively and Requiem is good for another watch, oh about….never. Excellent but brutal.

    • Jarv says :

      The shot with Jennifer Connelly is lifted from a painting by a surrealist. I think it may be Dali, but for the life of me I can’t think which painting it is- that’s why I left it out.

      It’s a fairly common image- and one that is used a lot.

      Also, being pedantic- the last shot of the film is the bitterly ironic appearance of a thin Sarah and whole Harry on stage at the Tuppy show.

      The shot appears a few times, but most noticeably when Harry has passed out due to the pain of his gangrene and he falls backwards off the pier into the abyss. Brutal stuff.

    • koutchboom says :

      Agreed about the Wrestler. Plus Tomai is pretty much has a useless role.

  5. Jarv says :


    Google isn’t helping me. If anyone can think of that fucking picture, I’ll be really grateful.

  6. Jarv says :

    Looking this up on Imdb, which I really should have done before I wrote it, to try to find out the name of that damned painting- I’ve discovered some really interesting stuff-

    The scene between Sarah and Harry was actually filmed that way by accident, and Requiem contains over 2000 cuts.

    Fuck me. What an achievement.

    Still can’t find that fucking picture, though.

  7. Bartleby says :

    well, of course it’s not the final shot…and yes, you are right about the painting….but not my point actually. Just thought it was interesting that 3 directors used the same shot with Connelly herself, near the film’s finale. Technically, it’s not the ‘final’ shot of any of the films, but it’s one of the final capping images of all three.

    Also, I’ve never heard any of the 3 directors acknowledge any sort of painting, which probably means they created the shot unaware of the connection, or subliminaly, as a result of seeing the pic.

    Now, Im on a mission…

  8. Bartleby says :

    Also, you say it is used alot. Where else?

  9. Droid says :

    Yeah good review, you bastard.

  10. Bartleby says :

    Haven’t found the picture, but found Roger Ebert talking about the pier stuff…


  11. Jarv says :

    Misery Porn is the description I would use to describe Kill Bill 2 and Death Proof.

    I was certainly fucking miserable and would much rather have been watching porn.

  12. Jarv says :


    Chocolate sweetie, 1 million internets, and a Brucie fucking bonus to whoever can find that bastarding picture,

  13. Bartleby says :

    Im starting to think we have the same delusion…

    all I can find is Ed Munch’s Girls on a Pier, but it’s not the right angle and there are three of them…

  14. Jarv says :

    No- we’re not deluded.

    I found a dali picture with his wife looking at a pier out the window, but that’s not the right one.

    I’m wondering if it’s Magritte now.

  15. Bartleby says :

    I’m looking through Magritte right now….I also had the same suspicion

    What Im envisioning was in his style..

    Jarv, you ever see Red Riding? Im about to watch it….

  16. Bartleby says :

    also, did you ever get the sodding internets fixed so we can do one of those double-team schlock reviews?

  17. Jarv says :

    BT are coming out at the end of the month to fix it.

    Useless cunts- it turns out I’m not being dense, rather it’s something fucked in the building.

    The IT nerds that live next door told me.

  18. Jarv says :

    I’ve seen the fucking thing in a fucking gallery as well.

    *bangs head on table*

  19. Jarv says :

    I’m going to go and ask an Art teacher.

  20. Bartleby says :

    so, you ever see red riding?

  21. Droid says :

    I found that painting you guys were after


  22. Jarv says :

    Always liked that one.

    I found a simpsons Dali that I nearly did that with.

  23. Jarv says :

    Where’s Conti when we need him. I bet he knows.

  24. Bartleby says :

    I think we are getting closer…

  25. Bartleby says :

    got a kick out of this one too:

  26. just pillow talk says :

    I’ve never seen this one. I guess this is why I should consider joining Netflix again since that would probably be the only way I’ll see some of these flicks.

  27. koutchboom says :

    Also Jarv, the next film The Fountain, they use the music for that in every trailer now. Though no rapper has used it yet.

  28. koutchboom says :

    What I hate about this movie is how every college doofus thats scene it is like “oh yeah, ASS TO ASS!” its like thats all they took away from the movie.

  29. koutchboom says :

    Also the I know it’s pretty, but I didn’t get it out for air scene has a lot funnier dialog in the book.

  30. koutchboom says :

    ugh how lame The Patriot (2000) – John Williams (I)
    was nominated for best score and this wasnt?

  31. jarv says :

    The painting- Mrs. Jarv thinks it is by Jack Vettriano.

    That is a good shout.

    I agree with koutch about the doofuses and this film. Twats

  32. jarv says :

    That’s atrocious. I have to wonder if the MPAA rating thing fucked this film at award time.

  33. koutchboom says :

    whats atrocious is that Ebert said that Juno/Crash/Monster/the Hurt Locker are all better then this film.

  34. koutchboom says :

    From Wikipedia:

    In the United States, the film was originally tagged with an NC-17 rating by the MPAA due to a nude sex scene, but Aronofsky appealed the rating, claiming that cutting any portion of the film would dilute (if not outright destroy) its message. The appeal was denied, however, so Artisan decided to release the film unrated.[4] An edited version of the film was released on video, rated R. This version had the sex scene shortened, but kept the rest of the movie identical to the unrated version. This R-rated version was only distributed in video store chains such as Blockbuster as well as some family-oriented department stores such as Target. The edited version contains an alternate title card, featuring the words “Requiem for a Dream Edited Version,” ensuring that the viewer is aware that the version they are watching is not the original.

    In the United Kingdom, the film has been given an 18 certificate by the BBFC.

    In the DVD commentary, Aronofsky implies the “ass-to-ass” scene was based on something he actually witnessed; in the book, the particulars of Marion’s prostitution are not described.

    What fucking circles does Aronofsky hang around in? Mainly because that scene is not in the book.

  35. Lord Bronco says :

    Great review. A lot of people think that the movie “Spun” is a funny movie-which is why I particularly hate it. Requiem ought to be mandatory viewing in High School shop class, similar to those car wreck videos. Requiem and this one other movie “Love and a .45” are the only two that do justice to the whole legitimate methamphetamine scourge. “.45” is still a bit light, but it’s hearts in the right place…

  36. jarv says :

    Spun is a juvenile and repellent film. I properly fucking detest it. I was almost certain that they were aiming for grotesque comedy with it. Dying the fucking poodle green leaping to mind.

    If it was post 2000 then it’s going in the bottom feeders list. I’d completely forgotten about it.

  37. Droid says :

    “Love and a .45”

    Does that have Zellweger in it? Or am I thinking of something else. Saw that A LONG time ago.

    • koutchboom says :

      Its got Gil Bellows!!!!!!!!!

    • koutchboom says :

      You can watch the whole movie on Hulu.

      • Lord Bronco says :

        Patricia Arquette in her last kick ass movie role before she settled down to tend the fields of primetime american television as the girl who can see Haley Joel osments all the time…

        also has Rory Cochrane in role that he shined in, as the villian. It was a tarantino indie knockoff back in the day-which i treasure as much as-wait it was arquette in the slater tarantino thing–hmmm I’m to lazy to look up IMDB

      • koutchboom says :

        HUH? Are you talking about Tarantino’s True Romance???

        And Arquette was the BOMB! in Human Nature.

  38. jarv says :

    Wikipedia is wrong- koutch.

    I’ve read three different places that said they were told to cut for a NC17

  39. koutchboom says :

    I liked Spun. I thought it was a comedy.

    • Lord Bronco says :

      It’s stupid statements like that that I’m starting to expect from you K.

      Now ask me about my friends serving as infantry in Afghanistan, and we can really have a proper flame war, son.

  40. jarv says :

    Yup- so the story goes. They were told to cut to get any rating.

    Kudos for telling the censor to fuck off

  41. jarv says :

    I can answer that- because he’s more interested in hypocrisy and the people doing the rating. Nobody gave a fuck about a small art film about drugs

  42. kloipy says :

    I would have to agree that The Wrestler is my least favorite of his movies, although I thought it was still great. I might be alone in this assesment, but I liked The Fountain the best, Requim comes in second, followed of course by Pi.

    • Jarv says :

      The Wrestler is OK, but nothing compared to this.

      I’d go Requiem, Pi, Fountain, Wrestler in that order- but still none of them are bad.

  43. ThereWolf says :

    I’ve seen ‘Requiem’ twice – that’s as far as I’m willing to go. The first time I saw it I felt an instant compulsion to go and have a bath.

    It’s well made, Ellen Burstyn is fantastic. And a very good call on the two distraught old ladies hugging each other on the bench – that pulled at my heartstrings too. I can’t get anything else out of it. Distressing.

    Another fine review.

  44. Tom_Bando says :

    I’ll give this one a pass, as in ‘thanks, NO-‘. It Sounds very well acted-check out that cast, and brutally frank in it’s subject matter-not for me.

    I do have a halfways decent Jenny C collection here-Dark City, Mutated Poodle Hulk and the Rocketeer, so there ya go.

    Wasn’t there a Kukla Fran and Ollie prequel to this some years back-?

  45. just pillow talk says :

    That’s a film I haven’t seen in ages: Rocketeer.

    I think I may have to throw in Dark City one of these days since I haven’t seen that one in a bit too…

  46. Chipps says :

    didn’t really like.

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