A while ago, I watched Requiem for a Dream for the first time in years. The next day, I was texting with some friends about it and I remember typing “requiem for a dream is our lives.” It seemed an intuitive thing to say at the time. I sent that to a group text with four other people in it and after I reflected on it a bit, asking myself how the movie applied to each one individually, it seemed like a stupid thing to say and I hoped that everyone would forget that I said it and just bury it high up in the strand.
Today, though, I had an epiphany. I don’t need to go into detail since that is not the point of this writing, but as I got on the train to go home from work today, I felt like I was making a face similar to one that the character Marion (played by the gorgeous Jennifer Connelly) makes at the end of the movie, and that I was channeling something similar. In some way and at some point, although some more than others, we all end up like Marion here, with some sort of consolation applied to ourselves – either from without or within. So here is my post hoc rationalization of my saying “requiem for a dream is our lives.”
We look at Marion in the picture knowing where she has just come from. She looks happy that it is now over and that she can enjoy her life for a little while. As the camera pulls away, she looks at her bag of heroin and turns over, cuddling up in a childlike fetal position, comfortable with her present situation.
Life weighs down on her. She finds some sort of consolation. She attempts to move on and finds solace in looking ahead. This image of Marion perfectly captures this process: her running makeup signifying the pressure and weight of life up to this moment and her odd smile (likely drug-induced) signifying her reaction to moving away from that pressure and thinking she’s found a way to live her life, either by continuing to go to this source for heroin or by telling herself that it’s over and this was the last time.
This process is what makes the film relevant to all or our lives. It’s not just a film about the dangers of drug addiction (or addiction in general), it’s a film about how people live.
The film gives many examples of this process, some of them all within the space of one minute or less. Take, for example, the scene when Harry is in a cab leaving his mother’s house after telling her he ordered a television for her and learning she’s on uppers.
Life weighing down:
The film simply ramps up this process to a much higher degree by using heroin and other drugs (a substance), highlighting it and making it much easier to see and thus understand. Hyperbole is the brightest highlighter.
Consolation can come in many forms, escape (physical or mental) is just one. There are the more obvious ones like cigarettes, drinking or hard drugs like the movie. There are also the slightly less obvious examples like sex, masturbation and pornography. Yet there are still less obvious ways to take part in the process illustrated in Requiem for a Dream and these are of the sort that granted me an epiphany today. These can be things like meditation, looking around yourself and telling yourself that everyone else is doing something similar to what you are doing, surrendering to God’s will, telling yourself that there’s nothing one can do to change the course of events, relating to the character(s) of a movie or television show, or even trying to see all of the universe as one unity. Even acceptance can do it: fully accepting who you are and seeing how stupid it is that an oak should wish to be a pine (what did it for me). (The topic of natural addiction and how people with a materialist bent won’t accept it is another topic altogether.)
All of these are Marion’s heroin. Life, just like the film, is a series of heroin injections to ease the pain of the realization of our lives. These injections give us the illusion (sometimes) of a new start granted by a new understanding (either true or false). From there we go back to our lives, mostly to keep repeating the same things over and over; most of us also get hung up on one tool for our consolation, but we all do essentially the same thing nonetheless.