Requiem for a Dream at 20: Aronofsky’s nightmare still haunts
The auteur’s bold and brutal 2000 adaptation of Hubert Selby Jr’s cultish novel about addiction remains an indelible and shocking act of provocation
I was 17, and just beginning university, when Requiem for a Dream descended on cinemas like an opaque, bruise-blue mist. Notwithstanding the no-under-18s restrictions stamped upon it by stern censors in the UK and elsewhere, I like to think I was the optimal age for it. Darren Aronofsky’s addiction drama may be cross-generational in its focus, but with its unremittingly punishing storytelling and frenzied, all-systems-go cinematic energy, it represents a very young person’s idea of how a very adult film looks, sounds and spasms. I loved it, even as it followed me through a tertiary arts education to the point of overkill: its poster gracing umpteen friends’ dorm rooms, its Clint Mansell/Kronos Quartet string theme – and its countless remixes – soundtracking all manner of student theatre pieces and presentations, its formal and literary flourishes seized upon by many a hip professor seeking a modish mutual reference point.