"Requiem for a Dream" Blu-ray Review
September 23, 2009 by Zach Demeter
There are times when a films reputation precedes your viewing of it and you have no choice but to already make assumptions about it. Darren Aronofsky’s bleak and visually jarring Requiem for a Dream is one such film, which has had tons of praise heaped upon it over the years since its initial 2000 release. With several DVD editions already under its belt, a director’s cut Blu-ray release was bound to follow and Lionsgate presents the film with a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track and a whole roster of bonus features.
Harry Goldfarb (Leto) and Marion Silver (Connelly) are lovers in Brooklyn with their version of the American dream, setting up a small business and spending the rest of their lives in love. The two are also desperate heroin addicts, a compulsion that darkens their lives. Harry’s mother, Sara Goldfarb (Burstyn), is addicted to television. One day she receives a call from her favorite show and learns that she has been selected to appear on an upcoming broadcast. When she can’t fit into her best red dress, her doctor prescribes diet pills, to which she swiftly and painfully becomes addicted. With its unflinching dissection of addiction, the film is a psychologically disturbing, visually captivating depiction of lost hope.
I love watching films as much as the next guy and I especially love finding older films that I’d not seen or passed on when they first came out, only to find out that I love them. I had hopes that Requiem would be such a film, as it promised to be a bit of a psychological thriller as well as something that many films had supposedly borrowed from. I strapped in for the film, eager that it might bestow upon me some glorious visuals and storyline and right from when that semi-famous intro music started (famous in my household, at least, as a version of it was used in the Lord of the Rings trailers), I was all ready to be blown away.
But it never happened. I kept waiting for the film to bestow upon me some mind bending visuals and crazy psychological goodies, but instead all I got were fishbowl camera angles and repetitious splices of footage. I guess in 2000 it was something unique and new, but I feel like I’ve seen those things so overused today, sometimes for comedy effect, so I honestly had no real particular enjoyment of what was going on—it just felt, to me, like something that kept slowing the film down.
The characters themselves were likeable enough, but all of them felt underutilized. I wondered if anything more would become of them, but, nope, they were all just drug addicts and their life went into the toilet because of it. I suppose that should be deeply saddening or moving, but I’m not sure what else I was supposed to glean from this film other than “drugs/addictions are bad, mmmkay.” It’s hammered into our skulls repeatedly and I kept waiting for some triumphant turn of the tables to make me rethink what I’d just seen. But then again this isn’t Memento, so I don’t know why I expected so much from this film.
I will say that the final big collage of scenes together still remained as jarring and unsettling as I heard it was. I didn’t know quite how the film was going to end but that collaboration of scenes was such a huge mixture of disgusting visual images and shocking ones that it actually made one feel a bit queasy while watching it. Definitely shocking and at the same time it was obviously done solely for the shock value, but in the end it still worked.
Overall this film didn’t give me what I’d expected and really it’s kind of a one trick pony. It’s a film you either love or hate, as it gives you so little to take away from this film that it’s hard to take it as anything more than a hyperintense anti-drug ad. Yes, yes, I know that the mom was “addicted” to TV…whatever. It still all ended up being about the drugs and, on another level, the need for human contact and happiness. Sad and shocking, sure, but Requiem left me feeling more disappointed than anything. Worth a Rental if you have yet to see it…but I honestly got nothing out of watching this film (aside from some weird ass dreams).
Lionsgate brings Requiem For a Dream to Blu-ray in a standard Elite Blu case. Menus are a replica of the weight loss TV show with Christopher McDonald, complete with fuzzy old TV reception. Video is a VC-1 encoded transfer and there really was a surprising amount of detail to glean from this transfer, even if it was nine years old. The close up shots of the heroine and dilated eyes especially popped with detail and nothing really looks quite as horrible in 1080p as old TV signals blown up, which the film starts out with. It’s an ugly visual, but it works and kind of sets the tone for the film. The 7.1 DTS-HD MA track is also quite impressive, with dialogue centered in the front and a solid amount of surround effects tossed about, particularly during that mind-bending collage of sequences at the end.
Extras are all ported over from the previous DVD editions and include:
• Audio commentary by Director Darren Aronofsky
• Audio commentary by Director of Photography Matthew Libatique
• “The Making of Requiem for a Dream” documentary
• Deleted scenes with optional Director Commentary
• “Memories, Dreams and Addictions” - Ellen Burstyn interviews writer Hubert Selby Jr.
• Theatrical Trailers and TV Spots
These extras are all well worth checking out as they expand on the film and discuss it in great details. The commentaries especially are well worth checking out, although the piece with Ellen Burstyn is very interesting as well. Overall a Recommended release if you’re a fan of the film, especially since, as of this writing, it’s only $9.99 on Amazon. Cheap!
Requiem for a Dream is now available on Blu-ray.