Requiem for a Dream is a 2000 drama film directed by Darren Aronofsky and starring Ellen Burstyn, Jared Leto, Marlon Wayans and Jennifer Connelly. The film is based on the novel of the same name by Hubert Selby, Jr., with whom Aronofsky wrote the screenplay. Burstyn was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance. The film was screened out of competition at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival.
The film depicts different forms of addiction, leading to the characters’ imprisonment in a world of delusion and reckless desperation that is subsequently overtaken and devastated by reality.
The film charts three seasons in the lives of Sara Goldfarb (Ellen Burstyn), her son Harry (Jared Leto), Harry’s girlfriend Marion Silver (Jennifer Connelly), and Harry’s friend Tyrone C. Love (Marlon Wayans).
The story begins in summer; Sara Goldfarb, an elderly widow living alone in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, spends her time watching infomercials hosted by Tappy Tibbons (Christopher McDonald). After a phone call announces that she will be invited to be a participant on a game show, she becomes obsessed with regaining the youthful appearance she possesses in a photograph from Harry’s graduation, her proudest moment. In order to fit into her old red dress, the favorite of her deceased husband Seymour, she begins taking a regimen of prescription weight-loss amphetamine pills throughout the day and a sedative at night. Despite Harry’s warnings about amphetamine addiction, she passionately insists that the chance to be on television has given her a reason to live. When her invitation does not arrive over the fall, she increases her dosage but begins suffering from amphetamine psychosis, hallucinating that she is the principal subject of the game show and that her refrigerator is a menacing, living monster.
Harry is a heroin addict; together with fellow addicts Tyrone and Marion, he enters the illegal drug trade around Coney Island in an attempt to realize their dreams. With the money they make over the summer, Harry and Marion hope to open a fashion store for Marion’s designs, while Tyrone dreams of making his mother proud by escaping the street. However, at the beginning of fall, Tyrone is caught in the middle of a drug gang assassination, and Harry must use most of their money to post bail. Increasing drug-related violence and arrests begin making it hard to obtain drugs, throwing Harry, Tyrone, and Marion into a state of deprivation. Growing more desperate, Harry convinces Marion to have sex with her psychiatrist in exchange for money, causing a rift in the relationship. Meanwhile, Harry’s arm is becoming infected from unsanitary injection techniques.
As Sara’s sanity unravels, she takes the subway to visit the television studio in Manhattan. The secretary at the studio calls a hospital and Sara is involuntarily committed to a psychiatric ward where she undergoes unsuccessful medicative treatment, followed by electroconvulsive therapy. Harry and Tyrone set out for Florida to obtain drugs, but Harry’s increasingly infected arm forces them to visit a hospital in South Carolina, where they are arrested for skipping bail. Tyrone must deal with hard labor, racist corrections officers and drug withdrawal, as Harry is taken to a prison hospital to have his arm amputated. Harry has a recurring dream of Marion waiting for him at a pier at Coney Island, but awakens and realizes that he is alone in jail with just one arm. Back in New York, Marion meets with a pimp (Keith David), who gives her drugs in exchange for sex and puts her in sex shows to provide for her drug habit.
Lost in misery, each character curls into a fetal position. In Sara’s dream, she wins the game show’s grand prize and meets Harry there. In her fantasy, Harry is a successful businessman and engaged to Marion. Sara and Harry hug and say how much they love one another through the cheers of the crowd and the glowing stage lights.
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