Study Guide

Requiem for a Dream Production Design

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Production Design

If someone tries to say that Requiem for a Dream is a below-average film, you can confidently argue against them. The average film has around six hundred edits. Requiem for a Dream has about two thousand.

That makes Requiem an above-average film. It's a fact.

The reason the film has so many quick cuts is its depiction of drug use. Aronofsky and his editor, Jay Rabinowitz, show the audience what it's like to OD on diet pills, smoke marijuana, and do other harder drugs.

He shows us extreme close-ups of the characters' pupils dilating, along with relaxing music to mark the initial euphoria. Then he alters time by speeding it up and slowing it down to show how an addict's relationship to the world changes due to the drug. As their abuse gets worse, the cuts became more rapid, the music becomes more intense, and Aronofsky attempts to drive you as insane as his characters. (Source)

Aronofsky calls these sequences the "hip-hop montage." (Source) At times they even happen while the character is listening to hip-hop music. Unlike many directors (such as David Fincher) who start in music videos and move to film, Aronofsky didn't direct his first music video until Metallica and Lou Reed's "The View" in 2011.

Some criticize Requiem for being style-over-substance. Or in this case, illegal substance-over-substance. But Aronofsky maintains, "every stylistic choice we make has a solid narrative reason behind it." (Source)

Other critics agree, which is why AMC's filmsite included Requiem's ending as one of the best-edited film scenes of all time. (Source)

It's good stuff, but we might need to enter rehab to detox ourselves from this movie's many harrowing images.

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