Arguably the first of Darren Aronofsky’s masterpieces, Requiem was a hard hitting ‘drug’ film following the highs and lows of four addicts, which shot its director as well as actor Jared Leto into super-stardom. Looking back now fifteen years later, does Requiem continue to disturb and amaze?
Short answer: Yes. The direction of Aronofsky remains excellent, with the increased number of frames and use of split screen continuing to be exemplary. The shots of the drug taking are still amazing and really add to the aura of the film. It’s a perfectly toned piece, with no part out of place. The four main performances remain truly magnificent also. Jared Leto’s Harry could easily be a truly horrible character, he barely visits his mother and when he does he steals from her; he’s a drug addict who is willing to allow his girlfriend to sell her body for drugs. However, Leto manages to make his actions at least partially redeemable. Sure he does all these horrific things but it’s all for love, he’s trying to provide for the love of his life. Obviously though, what he is trying to provide is drugs. Jennifer Connelly’s Marion is in the same boat as Harry, a drug addict but one who is in love. They’re perfectly destructive for each other.
Perhaps the two stand out performances though are by Marlon Wayans and Ellen Burstyn. Wayans plays Tyrone, an addict friend of Harry’s who just wants to escape where he came from and honor his late mother. Wayans often gets a lot of criticism for his acting but this performance no doubt proves his abilities. Burstyn’s Sara is the mother of Harry who gets a phonecall telling her she’s going to be on the television. This leads to an accidental drug-fueled breakdown over the course of the film as she aims to fit into the red dress she wore at her son’s graduation which she hopes to wear on television. She is the most sympathetic character in the film, an unwitting victim of addiction, who you are really rooting for. All the lead characters have something to hold onto which makes the audience want to see them succeed, but Aronofsky’s film is not one to take the easy way out. Based on the book of the same name by Hubert Selby Jr, Requiem highlights that actions have consequences, especially when it comes to drugs.
It’s a heartbreaking, at times excruciating, watch, but it still remains essential viewing. It has stood the test of time, and is up there with the best films Aronofksy and the cast have been involved with.