Review

It's another of those drug films again. Requiem for a Dream sounds like the title of some baroque classical piece, but abandon all notions about ballet or 19th century period romance. "Requiem" comes across as an unintentional Americanised copycat of Irvine Welsh's Trainspotting ; hip soundtrack, sensorium-distorting camera tricks, and good looking teens on a downward spiral to Hashish Hell. It starts off illuminating drugs in false glamour; the rave orgies, the laughing fits, the dilated pupils, before depicting the inevitable dream-weaving hangover that follows, like sweet milk gone sour. It has none of the political implications in Traffic, but is equally abundant with acting class and hangs on a solid narrative. Far from an Austenian fantasy like its title suggests, this is a film about the foregone consequences of taking fancy pills, be it knock-outs like Valium or white-powder hallucinogens.

Requiem centres on the lives of woebegone junkies played by Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly and Marlon Wayans struggling with their narcotic afflictions, and celebrity-show freak Ellen Burstyn who gets hooked on prescription diet pills which share similar chemistry with the ones they sell illicitly in the streets. Jared and Marlon eventually get entangled with the mobs and police, the former contracting a horrifying abscess in his arm from prolonged adminstration of parenterals. Connelly's Marian prostitutes herself under the coercion of a poverty-driven Leto to a suitor, and then to a drug kingpin who holds dildo parties in his free time. Burstyn's character has the ordeal of dealing with a rumbling, grumbling refrigerator as she starts popping her slimming pills like Smarties, which eventually reduces her to a shocking emaciated shadow of her former self.

Requiem effectively obliterates the addict stereotype by telling us that even menopausal couch potatoes with celebrity envy can land up in the ER as candidates for electroshock therapy. And that drugs don't have to be snorted with rolled up dollar bills to be lethal, even harmless looking sugar coated ones could do you in just as well. There are times when the director overdoses on the split screens and fast motion shots, but you can understand his intention of translating the "moral of the story" into a visual and aural blitzkrieg tailor-made for speed freaks to lavish an otherwise average case-study of drug abuse.

The message is clear and simple and it would take an idiot to miss the point. Requiem is not only a film about drug abuse and its tragedy-laden abusers, but a moderately druggy film itself to begin with. Sex, dope and techno make up the standard formula, and I doubt that there's any other way of making a drug film these days. Like the proverbial bogeyman that puts the kids to bed before ten, Requiem ends the way all films its genre should end: An immediate aversion to drugs. And that's not a bad thing at all.

Mark Wong ©Movie Mania


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