Requiem for a Dream has been dethroned as the director’s most upsetting work, but don’t let that deter you.
This weekend, idiots, pearl-clutchers, and smart, measured critics alike will be horrified by Darren Aronofky’s mother!. It’s a tight, nasty little film that will inevitably do more harm than good and alienate the vast majority of the audience it attracted. I quite liked it.
For those staying home (maybe your Moviepass card hasn’t arrived yet–there’s quite a backup), be advised, or be forewarned, that Aronofsky’s sophomore film, Requiem for a Dream is now on Netflix. A film that now holds the distinction as the filmmaker’s second-most disturbing. Not that that’s really saying much.
Requiem is a relatively straightforward movie, considering the Aronofsky canon. It’s a dark, relentless movie about addiction with a deeply committed cast and some of the most upsetting scenes in cinema. Briefly, it is a movie centered around the mother/son relationship of Sara and Harry Goldfarb. Sara (a typically peerless Ellen Burstyn) is a scared, small woman, who spends all her time watching, and obsessing over television. Her son, Harry (Jared Leto), simply loves doing drugs with his girlfriend (Jennifer Connelly) and his best friend (Marlon Wayans). Predictably, all four of these people are headed for misery.
As uncompromising and alienating as it is, it’s also a deeply human film. Aronofsky’s trademark flair for the self-indulgent is here, as is his increasingly exhausting depictions of terror committed against women. But there’s reason behind the horror. Requiem is a film as much about love as it is about the distinctly human ability for self-destruction. Love is both the glue and the real villain of the movie, allowing our protagonists to take from, and give to, each other, more and more, until their minds and souls are exhausted. It’s a spiraling economy of spirit that ends in, well, less than favorable results for any of them. There’s no possible happy ending here. The moment the film begins, you feel what you’re about to see is utterly inevitable.
And it is. Even for a film nearly two decades old, it’s a distinctly real, distinctly modern film whose morals and subject matter are continually all too relevant. It’s not easy to watch, but it may just be essential to. Whether or not mother! survives its opening weeks at the box office is yet to be seen, but there’s no way in hell it’ll have the lasting impact, or importance, of Requiem for a Dream.
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