In 1998, Darren Aronofsky’s debut feature Pi had one of those miraculous Sundance debuts that don’t seem to happen too often anymore. An unknown going into the festival, Aronofksy emerged a filmmaker of note thanks to an unclassifiable low-budget thriller involving number theory and the Kabbalah. Then Aronofsky had to reckon with the question that dogs every out-of-nowhere indie filmmaker: What do you do for an encore?
That encore came two years later in the form of Requiem For A Dream, an adaptation of Hubert Selby’s 1978 novel of addiction. Jared Leto, Marlon Wayans, Jennifer Connelly, and Ellen Burstyn all do fine work as addicts whose habits lead them to find rock bottom, then tunnel down further. But it’s the film’s style that takes center stage. Frenetic editing gives Requiem an assaultive quality, as if Aronofsky wants the audience to share in the characters’ sense of desperation.
It’s a daring, sometimes off-putting film. I didn’t much care for it when I first saw it. In fact, I thought it might be the end of Aronofsky’s career. It wasn’t, and the movie connected with a wider audience than anyone might even have expected, and confirmed Aronofsky as a filmmaker willing to take chances, no matter how many they might alienate.