The Representation of Mental Health in Requiem for a Dream
Requiem for a Dream | Directed by Darren Aronofsky | Drama | R | 1 H 42 MIN
Written by Martin 'Marty' Sroka
Recently a friend and I started talking about Requiem for a Dream (2000). She found it extremely ‘f***** up’; which is a naïve summary. I agree with her statement, but I believe that’s what makes this film so great. Directed by Darren Aronofsky, the film follows the tale of four individuals living in Connie island who become increasingly more addicted to their supplements. The story is segmented into the three seasons, starting with summer and ending with winter. The midpoint of the film begins quite fittingly when fall arrives.
Today, our society is becoming more aware and transparent about mental health and realizing how important it is to one’s own well-being. Requiem for a Dream looks at four individuals who all attempt to achieve their goals. For Harry Goldfarb, played by Jared Leto, he wants to open up his own business with his girlfriend Marion, played by Jennifer Connelly. Tyrone C. Love, played by an exceptional Marlon Waynes, assists Harry in his goal. Harry’s mother Sara Goldfarb, perfectly played by Ellen Burstyn, gets invited onto a show and realizes she needs to lose weight to fit into her red dress. Each of these characters have very lucid goals, however addiction takes them off course, and it is the addiction that shifts their desires towards drug abuse instead of their dreams.
The film’s striking imagery does not attempt to restrain the ugly side of addiction. The audience gets to see both the physical and mental impact of drug use. The imagery is what makes the film so difficult to watch. From seeing Harry’s arm start deteriorating from his heroin usage to seeing Sara having a mental breakdown, this film does not set up a happy ending. But, this is a story about the destructive capabilities of addiction; there is not supposed to be a happy ending. The film wants to fully explore why and how someone gets addicted. It explores the escapist quality as well as its eventual drawbacks. With Harry, Marion and Tyrone, it seems that their addictions are justified simply to counter their hardships, while Sara becomes addicted to achieve her goal of losing weight. The film does not offer any solutions except a dream. We see Sara reuniting with Harry who has started his business. By ending the film in a dream sequence, we understand that the source of this issue is within one’s thoughts. But not just random thoughts. They are thoughts about a better future, about the best possible outcome, for things to work out. During the film, the character’s go through a downhill spiral and are never able to recover. Now, I am not making a grand assumption about how to solve mental health. I just find that Requiem for a Dream should be a relevant example in terms of looking at mental health how it might be related to addiction. One’s dreams are crushed and with extensive drug use, an individual retreats back to their dreams to cope. An outside source is necessary to show that dreams are not the only coping method. What kind of outside source? That is still something to be discussed.
Watch the Official Trailer Below