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Movie Review

Requiem For A Dream

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Directed by Darren Aronofsky, starring Ellen Burstyn, Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly & Marlon Wayans.

Darren Aronofsky has signed up to do the next 'Batman' movie. After watching his 'Requiem For A Dream' you'll wonder whether Gotham City - and Hollywood - really knows what's going to hit it.

Based on Hubert Selby's 1978 novella, 'Requiem for a Dream' follows the druggy descent of young hustler Harry (Leto), his doting mother Sarah (Burstyn), his rich-but-slumming-it girlfriend Marion (Connelly) and his wide-eyed buddy Tyrone (Wayans). In between fixes and kisses, Harry dreams of opening a clothes store with Marion, a talented designer whose brittle confidence is glued together with his encouragement - and gear. In a crash and burn bid to obtain funds for the venture, Harry and Tyrone scale down their habits and set up as small time dealers, convinced that they can make a quick killing and then live the high life. Sarah meanwhile has hopes of her own. After years of partaking in TV quizzes as an armchair contestant, she receives an invite to appear on one of the most popular shows. Lonely and loveless since the death of Harry's father, she sees it as a chance to win back her self esteem and, desperate to lose some weight in a bid to uncover a new her, embarks on a course of diet tablets.

The drugs don't work - but just how many ways are there left to say it? After the likes of 'French Connection II', 'Christiane F' and 'Trainspotting' can anyone stare into dilated pupils and hope to see something new? Well if you have the mind of Darren Aronofsky you can: two films in and he's created the masterpiece that most directors spend a lifetime trying to score. Boiling down suburbia into hell on earth, he crashes a death march narrative into dazzling visuals and distils an unflinching yet heartbreaking study of damage. And while much will be made of Aronofsky's visual style (the film has 2,000 edits where most have 800), 'Requiem...'s true brilliance is finding the pace for a human story within the rush of chemical excess. Despite its subject matter, no scene ever feels hurried or gratuitous. The relationships between the characters (in particular Burstyn's chats with the women on her block and the teenage crush of Leto and Connelly's early days together) are delicately drawn.

Essentially a fable, the film is divided into three acts: summer, autumn and winter - no spring. It begins slowly with each character powered by the optimism that their lives are on the turn, then paradoxically gathers pace as they settle into rotten routine before plunging you headfirst down the spiral as hope abandons each of them. As the seasons change the film loses more light and becomes ever more grainy, until it looks like Aronofsky has lit it with a 40-watt bulb and a torch. The effect is to turn the cinema into an icy waiting room for a wretched end, Clint Mansell's score piped in for added horror.

In the midst of this slow-motion apocalypse burns one of the fiercest performances in years from Ellen Burstyn as Sarah. The junkie traumas of Leto, Connelly and Wayans, while excellent, have all been seen before, but an elderly woman on prescription drugs, losing her mind in her own living room? Her transformation from hausfrau to pill monster is Oscar-deserving, Aronofsky eerily mixing sympathy and stone cold conviction to almost unbearable levels. Rarely in cinema has dignity been stripped away in such harrowing fashion.

Regulation viewing for people who think they know better, and the most chilling fix of genius in years. Don't eat before you watch and don't expect to be hungry afterwards.

Harry Guerin

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