Things I Learned From “Requiem for a Dream”

requiem-for-a-dream As teens in the modern world, we have been bombarded with contradictory portrayals of drugs. In Health class, we are told only three words: “Never try them.” Yet pop culture glorifies it.

Your boss didn’t give you that promotion? Go to a bar. Drink your troubles away. Maybe find a guy.

The promise of escape and the seduction of all things taboo makes drugs almost irresistible. We even go so far as to give them names–Mary Jane, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds–as if they were real people, except better because they will never judge you, never abandon you, never question you.

Even if you have never taken recreational drugs before, surely you have felt that magnetic pull of addiction before. Binging on desserts because you just can’t stop. You are hungry. So so hungry. You need this. You deserve this. This world is so cruel. I feel fat and ugly. I want more cake. Just one more slice.

Escapism is a fundamental part of human nature. We never feel quite whole inside and we are always looking for ways to fill that gap. We are all incomplete people who are fooled into thinking only love can cure us.

I love loving you But love is fickle. It is messy. It hurts and we bleed and why would we want that when a much-needed dose of endorphins is available in the form of a capsule right on our kitchen counter?

Now for the film “Requiem for a Dream.” Perhaps the most haunting film on addiction I have ever seen. One word sticks to mind and that is: prison. The characters are all trapped in their self-imposed prisons.

Aronofsky, the director, portrays the psychological effects of drugs in a unique way. He uses extreme closeups, letting the pills (or whatever the drug of choice is) fill the screen, because that’s all the characters are thinking about. Then the injection, swallowing, or snorting and their pupils dilate. The world is gone and they are plunged into a drug-filled fantasy that unfortunately, is never long enough to satisfy their craving. But they are too quickly yanked back into cold reality but by then, they have already sent themselves spiraling into desperation, paranoia, and despondency. The cycle repeats.

It is one those films that most can acknowledge as groundbreaking, even life-changing but to watch it a second time would be masochistic. When I finished, all I could think about was that this would make the best anti-drug propaganda ever. 

Ultimately, I think schools should stop branding drugs as forbidden substances. Instead we should talk about the drugs that have already infiltrated our everyday lives. Social Media. TV. Porn. Advertising. Food. Video games. Virtually everything has the capacity to find our weaknesses and seduce us into escapism and detachment from reality.


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