Thursday, January 6, 2011

Requiem For a Dream: Why Keith David, Why?

You know those movies that people your age always talked about when you were younger? They were movies that technically they should not have been allowed to see and yet those kids always did--and they always talked about it like they were busy throwing back Bud Lights in the back of the school bus. For me this movie was Requiem For a Dream. I remember some boys on the bus talking about how intense this movie was. How completely and utterly messed up it was and how I could never watch it because I was a wimpy girl or something blah blah whatever you guys I play video games...and you're just a bunch of....jerk faces......

........Right so anyways. For all these years now I've always held what I thought was an appropriate opinion of Requiem For a Dream. A movie that largely felt like a nightmare and a movie that was disturbing in every sense of the word. This is why I am in the here and now talking about this film on a horror movie blog. I've seen it on more than a few "disturbing film" lists and it was only appropriate that I examine it for myself.

It's funny because I finally saw Black Swan last night and now watching this, I can see all these immediate similarities. I can only assume this is a repeated theme in Aronofsky's work--this idea that at first we believe other, outside forces are the bad guy when in reality it's an internal struggle that is causing the most harm. Characters always seem to be at war with themselves, and this is clear when we arrive at the final terrifying scene at the conclusion of Requiem For a Dream. I must be honest and admit to you that I felt pretty let down through most of the film. Not because it was bad (It's not) but because nothing was disturbing me. I started to get restless and I just sat there waiting and waiting. Finally--it happened.

If you don't know, Requiem For a Dream follows the journey of addiction. Ellen Burstyn (!!) is an old woman addicted to day time self help shows, her television and amphetamines.

Jared Leto is her son addicted to heroin, while his girlfriend Jennifer Connelly and friend Marlon Wayans follow suit. What happens is a terrifying trip from hope to destruction. We watch simply like any other film but then suddenly realize that our eyes have just been raped. Drugs have never been scarier.

I wasn't expecting the huge disturbing moment to be at the end of the film. All the shifts are gradual, and it's a slow process that shows us how each person is falling apart. That being said, that sudden massive upheaval at the end is still incredibly jarring. It's appropriate of course, as I assume the jump is a way to show how quickly drugs can change everything. Yes, it's a gradual thing, but sooner or later you hit that wall suddenly--and everything is very different.

It is this pivotal scene at the end, that is in many ways is one of the most disturbing MOMENTS I have ever seen. Somehow it continues to stick out to me as just a moment though. This is interesting as I felt disturbed throughout the entirety of Black Swan. Hmmmm. In any case--here is a pictorial example of what I felt like while watching that explosion of horror.

And yes that's right--I had no shirt on... because I fucking vomited all over it.

This last scene is no joke. I say this to you as someone concerned for other people's well being. And I'm about to spoil every single part of it so look away now if you want to see this for yourselves. Over the course of probably 10 minutes our eyes are over come with what is happening. We go from Jared Leto's terrifying open gash on his heroin arms, to Jennifer Connelly being forced to have anal sex with some whore and a giant double ended dildo. Believe me, it's NOT hot for any of you weird freaky deaky people. This scene of butt sex is juxtaposed with shots of Marlon Wayans mashing a giant vat of potatoes up in prison like he is churning butter. Meanwhile Ellen Burstyn is getting Electric Shock Therapy, and our insides are about to explode. The pictures keep getting faster, things are spinning out of control, giant dildos are being lubed up, men are shouting with money, Jared Leto's arm is being sawed off and Marlon Wayans fucking pukes in the mashed potatoes. It is done in such a way that you too feel like you are removed from your own body.

Everything is one giant pile of sadness and revulsion. How did we end up here? It all makes you rather depressed to think about--but I wouldn't go as far as saying that I'm disturbed. I can understand its position on many disturbing lists, but I get the feeling that people are mostly just too uptight about needles. Giant needles being shoved in a giant open wound on someone's nasty heroin arm. I'll be honest, it's probably one of the sickest things I have ever seen--but it's just one moment. It's not evoking an entire disturbed feeling out of me.

So I guess what I'm trying to say to you cool boys on the bus--not that big of a deal. Great film, amazingly effective and entirely overwhelming in its emotional impact and severity--but it won't be keeping me up late at night because I'll be too busy having nightmares about Natalie Portman's swan feet. I guess I just had the wrong idea about it is all. I was expecting to be fully revolted and disturbed but I wasn't.

Just as a note, I really enjoyed this film--but for the purposes of Exploration Disturbia--it does not pass the test. Maybe in another life and another place I can go into detail about what I truly loved but for now---we'll just pretend that Keith David didn't do that.


B.STANK said...

I agree, great display of addiction's downward spiral, but not "disturbing" screaming pic is pure fucking genius!!

Blue Seven said...

I'll always have an imprint of this film on my brain, for better or worse. Something about the way it's put together just disturbed me like few other films have. The sadness of Ellen Burstyn's character's life and her interactions with her son is palpable even before she starts getting high. The doomed nature of the young lovers' relationship without them even knowing it is depressing. That feeling that addicts get where all they'll need is that one giant score and then it won't be an issue any more - they'll earn a living from it instead of being crushed by it - is portrayed brilliantly here. I vividly remember watching a vhs tape of it back in 2001 or so and just being decimated by the end. It's weird...of course, as horror/disturbing film buffs we've seen sexual grotesqueries and scenes of all sorts of drug use and even hallucinatory mindfuck types of movies as well...but few other movies combine them into something so gut-wrenching. I love this movie and in my opinion it's one of the scariest things I've ever seen. Saw Black Swan last night. Liked it a lot but it sure didn't leave a mark like Requiem For a Dream did.

M. Hufstader said...

Good to see you got back to those cool kids at the back of the bus...down with them! But in all seriousness, great review of Requiem For A Dream. I for one really enjoyed this movie, but I have to agree with you, it's extremely subtle up until the very end. Which is just plain upsetting, after getting to know/love the characters. The funny thing is, what stuck with me wasn't the grotesque arm, but the last scene where they're all in fetal position. Something about that...subtle, but poignant. ///rant. In short, great review!

Matt-suzaka said...

I agree with you...I wouldn't call it disturbing so much as it's very sad and gut wrenching to see what the characters have come to. It's even sadder that Ellen Burstyn lost out to Julia "fish face" Roberts because she played a sassy character that all of America would embrace! Bullshit. Burstyn for the win.

I am very much am looking forward to Black Swan, though and your thematic theory is certainly apparent in Aronofsky's first film, Pi, which I highly recommend as a solid little indie mind fuck. Plus, there's no ass-to-ass to be found.

Andre Dumas said...

Blue Seven- You hit all the marks about why I did come away enjoying the film. It's just not sticking with me as much. Black Swan was a different experience for me I guess, probably because the internal battle is much more apparent and obvious throughout. It gave me this crazy feeling of exhaustion, franticness and just overall unsettled emotions. It's like someone shook a snowglobe and it never really stopped snowing...I still feel....weird about it..!

M- Yes! I also quite loved all those fetal position shots a very beautiful and haunting way to end the film.

Matt- I had no idea this year was when stupid Julia Roberts won...! I was wondering who Ellen could have possibly lost to. Egads.

Funny story-- I have seen Pi only in math class in the 7th grade. I remember nothing except a brain or something. Anyways I have thought about going back and watching that movie and definitely more so now as I had no idea Aronofsky did it until a few weeks ago....!

Emily said...

I actually did find this film to be one of the most disturbing I've seen, in terms of how much it depressed me while watching it, and because I could not for the life of me get it out of my mind after I watched it. When I think about it now, I still feel my stomach clenching up.... maybe it's because I've had a huge crush of Jared Leto since he was in My So-Called Life which I was obsessed with when I was 12, and seeing him as a heroin addict crushed me... I'm pretty sure the reason I saw this film at the time was because he was in it. I really think that Requiem for a Dream and Trainspotting should be used in school as part of their anti-drug campaigns.
I haven't yet seen Black Swan but I can't wait!

DVD Infatuation said...

Yeah, this one really shook me the first time I saw it as well (and absolutely...Burstyn should have won that damn Oscar!).

CashBailey said...

I wonder which is more disturbing, repugnant and hard-to-endure; watching this movie or listening to 30 Seconds to Mars.

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Heuveltjes said...

Just saw this movie and it has left me disturbed and sad.

Even though you can see their demise coming from miles away the climax still manages to grab you by the throat and leave you pondering.

Awesome movie.

Anonymous said...

So there is vomit in Requiem for a dream? I don't remember

Anonymous said...

I don't believe the most disturbing part of the movie to be the injection scene. Rather, this movie is hard to watch because you can't help but connect with these characters... an unaccomplished widow yearning to feel loved and appreciated, the son that she enabled to the point that he became addicted to hard drugs, then the beautiful girl that became a victim of these addictions as well... you see them spiral out of control into a pit of a despair that they will never get out of. I could watch the needle scene a million times and not obtain the same gut-wrenching feeling as seeing those old ladies cry and hug each other after Sarah received her ECT and was just a shell of her former self.