You know the kind of films that you love and admire so much you have to keep coming back to them again and again, and you love to do so, just in an attempt to recapture what you felt the first time? Well, ‘Requiem for a Dream’ is certainly NOT one of those films. It in fact sits on the opposite end of that spectrum. Years ago, as soon as I finished watching the hundred minute long film, I promised myself I would never return to it, such was its devastating impact on a younger me. But here I am. Now, several years later, I rewatched it for the sake of this explainer, and the impact is just the same. Devastated as I still am by the ending of the film from a fresh viewing, I don’t want to agonizingly go through the plot of the film. However, I will just take a brief minute to expand on the title of the film, something that indubitably first drew me towards the film, before jumping on to the traditional aspects of an explainer. Read on.
The Meaning of ‘Requiem’ for a Dream
Beginning with dictionary definitions is rather traditional and foreboding, but I will go ahead and do it regardless. The word, apart from its catholic inclinations typically means remembrance, physical (tokens or totems) and non-physical (acts). Now that would fit perfectly with our quartet of main characters, since flawed as they are, they still have dreams. For Marion, it is to become a designer or to open a store of her own. For Harry and Tyrone, it would be to move up in the drug trade and improve their financial condition. Sara’s dream, perhaps the most short-sighted one of the four, is quite vocally described by her as being on a television show, and being seen and loved by millions, while reuniting with her son.
The four initially seem to be making good progress on their dreams, no matter the way, until their addictions force things to come crashing down. It is a price that they pay for their dreams, a short lived gratification that leads to all of them damaging their lives irreversibly in pursuit of that dream. A requiem for their dreams.
The Ending, Explained
The literal ending of the film begins right after “Winter” begins in the film, the metaphorical end. The transition hits almost as a hammer, when Sara experiences a horrific hallucination at her home, and decides to run to the office of Malin and Block to ascertain why she hadn’t been called on the show yet. By this point, she is mostly seen in a demented state with her hair greying from the roots, and her behaviour as such at the agency lands her in a psychiatric facility, where after forced sessions of oral and nasal feeding, she is subjected to electroconvulsive therapy when the aforementioned fail, even while she signs on the agreement for it in a vegetated state.