Requiem For A Dream uses two strands to explore addiction – a mother’s addiction to TV, food, and later diet pills and her son’s addiction to drugs, which he shares with two others – and it constantly switches between the external circumstances that lead to the characters’ downfall and the inner world of their addictions.
SARA’S SUBJECTIVE JOURNEY TO INSANITY – BE EXCITED!
If The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is one of the most memorable visual representations of the inner world of a madman in the history of cinema, Requiem For A Dream could well be in the same league with its aural representation of the inner world of a mad woman. Dr. Caligari achieves its chilling effect through stylised sets, Requiem through stylised sound (and visuals, of course).
The most impressive aspect of sound design in Requiem is that it doesn’t just consist of isolated elements placed here and there. It is also a subsystem working alongside the other subsystems in the film (visuals, narrative, editing, and so on) to create an effect.
Sara’s disintegration into madness is not the only concern of the film – as mentioned in the beginning, Requiem uses two strands to explore its theme of addiction – but it is the strand that most richly uses sound to achieve its purpose: to put the audience in a position where they can subjectively participate in her cognitive functioning, which becomes more and more distorted as she grows insane.
The film constantly switches between Sara’s external and internal worlds. Let’s look how the film establishes her subjective point of view.
This scene subtly begins to take us into the mother’s inner world of addiction to food and TV, more specifically, a TV show called Juice.
The first thing to notice in terms of sound is the sound coming from the TV set. It is not there just as ambient noise but interacting with the image to subliminally introduce the connection between her two unconscious addictions, food and TV, and in a way to foreshadow their joint role in her demise:
- Over a high-angle close-up of Sara letting her finger sensuously drift over the chocolates we hear the crowd in Juice chanting repeatedly “be excited!”
- In the next shot, as she puts a chocolate in her mouth and slowly savours its luxurious taste, the crowd starts clapping.
Note also the aural close-up, interestingly against a visual medium shot, of the exaggerated eating noises coming out of her mouth. These noises sound far from naturalistic. This is because their purpose is not to merely accompany the picture, but to symbolise gluttony.
Part 1 Requiem For A Dream: Sara’s Subjective Journey To Insanity 1
Part 2 Requiem For A Dream: Sara’s Subjective Journey To Insanity 2
Part 3 Requiem For A Dream: Sara’s Subjective Journey To Insanity 3
Part 4 Requiem For A Dream: Sara’s Subjective Journey To Insanity 4
Part 5 Requiem For A Dream: Sara’s Subjective Journey To Insanity 5
Part 6 Requiem For A Dream: Sara’s Subjective Journey To Insanity 6
Part 7 Requiem For A Dream: Sara’s Subjective Journey To Insanity 7
Part 8 Requiem For A Dream: Sara’s Subjective Journey To Insanity 8