In my opinion Requiem for a Dream is one of those films you like, but aren’t going to return to on a consistent basis primarily because doing so would lead you on your own spiral of depression. As a result, trying to decide whether you should buy it or not is a tough call and seeing how I didn’t own it before receiving the Blu-ray for review doesn’t make my recommendation — one way or the other — any easier. What I can say is after what I believe to be my third time seeing the movie, it holds up just as well as it did the first time around and this Blu-ray only makes it better.
Requiem serves as a brutal look at addiction. Whether its drugs, television, sugar, or whatever vice you can think of, this film has addiction nailed to the wall and brings it to life using music, sound effects and images to the utmost of extremes. Made up of characters played by Ellen Burstyn (who received an Oscar nomination for her role), Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly and Marlon Wayans, these extremes are fully realized and without doubt. Paranoia sets in, the desire to succeed and be somebody is visible within each character but these dreams and desires are lost along the way as addiction takes over and it isn’t pretty.
I didn’t see Requiem for a Dream when it was first released. I think it was some time in 2003 or so when I finally saw it for the first time and was floored. Seeing it again simply allows for a greater appreciation and even deeper understanding. This isn’t to say this is a hard film to “get” but the first time around it has some hard-hitting elements that may cause you to miss other nuances along the way. However, it’s hardly deserving of the crippling NC-17 rating the MPAA handed down upon its theatrical release in 2000, and had it been more readily accessible perhaps it would have garnered more Oscar nominations considering the snubbing of Clint Mansell’s score and Aronofsky’s directorial work is a shame to say the very least. I am sure more capable eyes could even help me make a case for sound nominations as well as editing, but that’s all trivial at this point so what’s the use?
As for this new Blu-ray release, owners of the DVD edition will recognize everything as no new features have been added. However, that doesn’t mean they aren’t great. Aronofsky’s commentary track is a fantastic listen and serves as a great example as to what makes an excellent filmmaker. He’s a director with thoughts and ideas and it made me think so much of Rob Cohen’s commentary for The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, and how much he talked about his love for Chinese history. Had Aronofsky had the same appreciation for the Chinese culture I doubt he would have sought out to make a dumbed down Brendan Fraser action comedy about a CGI army of the undead. There’s a reason Aronofsky’s a respected filmmaker and this commentary track offers up several examples.
Also included is a more technical commentary from director of photography Matthew Libatique, a making of feature that runs just over 35 minutes, a batch of nine deleted scenes, trailers and an interview session featuring Ellen Burstyn asking questions of “Requiem for a Dream” author Hubert Selby Jr. Of the bunch the making of feature is excellent and includes occasional commentary from Aronofsky explaining what we are looking at. Burstyn’s interview session with Selby is entertaining, but does begin to become a bit of a downer as Selby goes quite dark in his impression of life and the future. The one serious misstep are the deleted scenes, which are missing a “play all” function, which means one plays and then you are back to the menu for a back-and-forth waste of time. Oh well.
Overall, like I said, this is a tough one to recommend based solely on the subject matter, but at just over 100 minutes it isn’t hard to pop it in and sail through. The music alone is reason enough to give it a spin. If you already own it on DVD, I guess it depends on your love for the film if you are looking to upgrade. I will say I thought the picture and the DTS audio track were immaculate and this film’s use of sound comes through spectacularly as a result, and that is important.