When things aren't going well, when the shit's hitting the fan and your whole life's turning pear-shaped, it's always a good idea to look for that light at the end of the tunnel. Yet it's also worth remembering that tunnels can cave in, and that lights are switched off. At least, that's normally the case in Hubert Selby Jr novels, and that's certainly the case in his book Requiem For A Dream. Given the harsh monochrome look and head-piercing nightmarishness of director Darren Aronofsky's striking debut, Pi, you can rest assured that his adaptation of Selby Jr's novel is a very faithful one.
With its unblinking depictionsof the physical/psychological horrors of addiction, and following the characters along their downward spirals, Requiem For A Dream is anything but comfortable viewing. But while Aronofsky takes you on the baddest of bad trips, there's no denying it's a hell of a journey.
Both the direction and performances are Oscar-deservingly outstanding. Aronofsky has clearly developed the visual flourishes which made Pi such a rave-worthy debut, jamming us up close to the actors, splitting the screen for multiple viewpoints, and even injecting a little CG effects work for when hallucinatory horror bleeds into reality. This is a helmer who not only knows how to grab your attention, but also straps you down and clamps your eyelids open, Clockwork Orange-style.
The visuals are matched by intense and all-too-believable turns from the cast. Most impressive is Ellen Burstyn, who so convincingly portrays her lonely, pathetic character's descent into insanity that her face is likely to haunt your nightmares for weeks.
Don't expect any neat ribbon-tied Hollywood resolutions - Requiem For A Dream is so efficiently devastating that it resonates like the echo of a dying scream. Beautifully executed, but spine-jarringly uncomfortable stuff.