I can’t tell you how many times I’ve attempted to sit down and watch Requiem. Its one of those films that everyone has seen and nobody would like to sit down and watch it with you. I heard stories about Requiem before I watched it on Hulu.com, people told me that it was graphically disturbing, that it would haunt me for days to come and depress me out of my mind. It was supposed to be a big downer, and who in their right mind wants to subject themselves to that for over an hour?
I did. Watching Requiem called for me to challenge myself and my desensitized nature. I would get through it without being grossed out. I would get through it without it messing with my brain. I would not be haunted for days afterwards.
So what is Requiem about? Most people would say drugs, addiction, heroin, speed. It takes you down the path of several addicts and does not skimp on the gruesome details. Requiem stars Jared Leto as Harry Goldfarb, a heroine addicted dude who plans to sell drugs on the street to fund his cocaine addicted girlfriend’s dream project: her own designer clothing store. As he sells drugs with his friend, he finds himself using more and more, in fun situations and as a crutch in bad situations. Mom is sad? Heroine. Girlfriend angry? Heroine. Worried about not getting more Heroine? Heroine.
He and his partner (Marlon Wayans in his most respectable cinematic role) encounter the violence and fear associated with depending on drug sales for a living, as they are haunted by the wishes of their parents, the dreams that they would have better lives.
Jennifer Connely plays the girlfriend, a girl that slowly sells out her integrity for coke and money, sliding down a slippery slope of sex and destruction. She dips so low as to perform heinous sexual acts in front of crowds for blow, on par with “two girls one cup”.
While the scarred arms, twisted addictions and insane cinematography associated with these young addicts is the film’s core focus, the real star of the show is Harry’s dementia ridden mother Sara (Ellen Burstyn, soon to play Barbara Bush in Oliver Stone’s “W.”)
The destruction of Harry and his friends was easy for me to shrug off, they still had their youth even if they had lost their way, they still had a chance, they may have learned their lessons. But the most haunting and disparaging thing about Requiem is elderly Sara, who lives a life like so many older relatives we all share. Small apartment, living alone, cleaning for nobody, living for nothing, a slave to their little world of television and diets. She is scammed into thinking she will appear on television, and in an attempt to lose weight for her big appearance, goes to a shady doctor who prescribes her speed. Old age and drugs warp her mind, and with no friends or family near by to help her, she constantly overdoses again and again. Watching her frightened, bewildered and unstoppable addiction to speed is like nothing else you’ve ever seen.
She has creepy hallucinations about a gameshow/infomercial she seems to watch non stop, and eventually fries her brain past the point of no return. Her dream to be on television is the only thing that keeps her going, even when she is a shell of a person, insane, walking the streets, picked up by the police and placed in a mental ward.
The movie crescendos with its trademark music at the end, and a mixture of amputations, puking, anal sex and repeated electric shocks to the head. Then all the characters crawl into the fetal position in despair. Most people I’ve talked to about the movie described the ending akin to their senses being raped.
So did I accomplish my goal in avoiding emotional disturbance? The answer is… for the most part. I felt like the young people dug holes for themselves and I couldn’t bring myself to be disturbed by the consequences of their actions. Now, the old lady is a different story. She was an innocent bystander in all this, had a very well intentioned dream, had nothing left to live for, and was taken advantage of by doctors and scammers. She didn’t deserve to lose her mind, and that made the loss of her dream, and sanity hard to bear. In that, Requiem makes the ultimate point, drugs may harm you, and it may be your intention to use drugs to harm yourself, but supporting a drug filled culture will eventually turn on innocent people. Drugs effect those around you almost as much as yourself.
[Editor’s Note: Big Tim is played by Keith David……..THE VOICE OF THE ARBITER FROM HALO 3!!!!]