Term Paper: Temptation, Requiem for a Dream

Pages: 5 (1448 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 0  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Literature  ·  Buy This Paper


[. . .] So, inexplicably, Aronofsky opted to substitute a quick-cut editing style, splicing the film into hundreds of short, crackling scenes. And the scenes truly were blunt and unapologetic, as required by the novel's content. But just as the seamless flow of Selby's writing style created an emotional connection between the reader and the characters, the razor sharp scene jumping serves to disconnect the viewer from those very same suffering players. Where Selby's stream-of-consciousness proclivities are emotive, Aronofsky's concision and speed come off as cool, and fairly evocative of celluloid compatriots like Quentin Tarantino and Guy Ritchie. That was fine for a film of the same subject matter like Trainspotting, where humor and fashion were skillfully inserted to offset the horrors of addiction. But Selby's harrowing volume is deserving of a more compassionate treatment.

It wasn't simply the conveyance of the central plot that suffered from the misinterpretation either. In fact, Selby's characters, likeable and sympathetic due mostly to the author's skillful temperance of emotional involvement, are rendered flat and dimensionless by the film's pointed haste. It isn't that the film fails to effectively depict the turbulence of addiction. In fact, that is it's greatest virtue. It doesn't waver from the necessary path, and Aronofsky prods his characters along with admirably harshness, forcing them to endure grainy, unforgiving indignities that may have defied imagination if not for his steady and assured impression of Selby's most striking and indelible moments. As such, it is fair to say that Aronofsky carried off the characterization of addiction most convincingly, detailing an entity of malevolence and insatiability. His human characters lacked flesh though. It may have been through no fault of the leading actors, all of whom seemed to understand their charge well. All four turned in strong performances that demonstrated an inkling of intimacy with the characters so painstakingly and overwhelmingly developed, through the lives of their addictions, in the novel. Particularly, Ellen Burstyn, who played the isolated and emotionally desiccated Sara Goldfarb, seems to have crafted a fine portrait of the afflicted senior. But her performance, as well as the others, was stunted by Aronofsky's cinematic conceits. Again, it is the critical difference between Selby's manic intuition and Aronofsky's mere conjecture. While Selby connects with his characters, Aronofsky only facilitates them. He thrusts them into the circumstances that will come to define them in his vision, and then gives them little space in which to develop. Once again, the choppy editing, while enjoyable on a strictly cinematic level, assures that the scene actions will have a greater impact than the characters therein. And perhaps this would be acceptable without cognizance of the novel's truer aim. The film is so taken by the controlling embodiment of addiction, that its actors must struggle to find some compelling voice in the mix. It works in direct contradiction to Selby's characters, who are the lifeblood of the novel.

None of this means that the film is a complete flop. It rose to great prominence thanks to the heaps of critical praise, an exceptional word-of-mouth campaign during the year of its release and a respectable handful of Academy Award nominations. And it's easy to see why. It was quite a brazen move to begin with to attempt to portray such indigestible subject matter on the big screen. Those in search of a powerful and unyielding look at addiction, shattered dreams and humiliating self-delusion with be satisfied with this relatively short but no less intense film. Those, however, familiar with the novel will be disappointed that this is the only idea that Aronofsky draws from his reading. Because Selby demands more from his readers than the cold, hard pity that the film elicits. Above that, he demands identification. His insistence that the reader immerse himself into the world of Requiem For a Dream summons unavoidable pangs of consciousness. The notion that anybody can be stifled by the haphazard and blind chase of his dreams without the proper precaution is not shrouded by addiction. Rather, it is raised by it. Admittedly, the movie's bold concreteness and lurid honesty will leave most viewers shocked, horrified and somewhat shaken. But the novel will produce genuine anguish, forcing its readers to walk away from it reflecting its grim admonishment with a greater understanding… [END OF PREVIEW]

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