When taking a look at Aronofsky’s career and which film would fit best for our Score of the Week segment, there was never a doubt that it would be the most terrifying drama I’ve ever seen, Requiem for a Dream.
Requiem for a Dream is a film that is told across three seasons, Summer, Fall, and Winter. The 33 track soundtrack follows the same suit, where 15 of the songs belong to the Summer season, and 9 each for both Fall and Winter.
The film opens with “Summer Overture” which includes a theme that you’ll hear again and again throughout the whole film. If you listen to it, you’ll probably recognize it from one of the dozens of film trailers that use it. (My personal favourite is a video essay about Kubrick’s One-Point Perspective by kogonada).
Clint Mansell uses small arrangements from Summer Overture through the film, and is always the first song that starts the new season. It also appears every time something begins to go wrong. By the end of the film, when you start hearing parts of it, it becomes a warning that not all is right.
Mansell’s (who has scored all six of Aronofsky’s films) music fits this harsh, brutal world so exceptionally well. Chords clash, leaving you uncomfortable and terrified at what happens on the screen.
Requiem for a Dream is a movie about the ugliness of addiction. While heroin addiction among three of the four characters is easily understood, it’s Ellen Burstyn’s role of Sara Goldfarb that hurts the most. She is the mother of Harry (Jared Leto) who gets addicted to diet pills (which include Uppers). Here, Aronofsky makes us question what exactly is a drug, and examines how her addiction, while sadly common in comparison to Harry/Tyrone/Marion’s heroin use, still follows the exact same path across the three seasons.
The film doesn’t have a Spring section as the film ends in a spot where all four characters (and you as a viewer) are destroyed. Spring representing life and rebirth would mean that these characters can be saved, but they aren’t, and they won’t be.
As I said earlier, every time the Overture plays, you are prepared for something awful to happen, when it plays as it’s own piece (“Lux Aeterna”), we see everybody at their absolute worst. They all crawl into a fetal position, wishing to be somewhere else, with someone else; they aren’t, and they can’t be.
This turned out to be an analysis of one song from the film rather than the whole score, but the truth is even though Mansell’s score is wonderful, it’s “Lux Aeterna” that gets stuck in your head and stays there. The film ends with a final montage using the song and leaves you thinking about that scene for days.
Requiem for a Dream is a hard film to watch, as it deals with heavy matters, and the performances across the board leave you glued to your seat. Even once the film is over and the credits roll, it’s impossible to move. I can only imagine what it was like to watch this film in the theatres during its original run. It’s a film that is not easy to watch a second time, but I weirdly have seen it about a dozen times, and I’ll probably watch it another dozen times because Aronofsky, with his cinematographer, Matthew Libatique, and composer, Clint Mansell, created one of the greatest films I’ve ever seen.