Film has always provided an abundant amount of inspiration for me. Luckily I found avenues, secret little tunnels, to start experiencing these movies at a young age. My oldest friend, April, helped to expose me to many of my favorite books, bands and movies as she was four years my senior. Bret Easton Ellis’ Rules of Attraction and New Order; April was paramount to the person I would one day become.
My mother was also another source of enlightenment for me, for she enjoyed the work of Stanley Kubrick and Francis Ford Coppola. I remember my first experience with Kubrick’s ‘The Shining’ in my youth, perhaps eleven or twelve years old. I was in awe, and I quickly moved on to ‘A Clockwork Orange’ and then to ‘2001: A Space Odyssey.’ It was through cinema that I found a way to walk through different periods…to visit new places…to live someone else’s life. From there, I explored foreign films. I learned how to defend myself from David Mamet’s ‘Glengarry Glen Ross.’ I set my sights on one day attending The Sundance Film Festival. I was so moved at so young an age, and that immense feeling has stayed with me all my life.
I’ve always been fascinated by the degradation of humanity and the unraveling of the American Dream. By nature, I’ve found that most people want, no, need to feel good, happy, and comfortable. Perhaps that is the reason why I was so drawn to Hubert Selby Jr.’s novel Requiem for a Dream. It was through Selby that I came face-to-face with the truth: that loneliness, fear, abandonment and rejection are the most powerful precursors to change. And change is such an important staple of a life well-lived.
I first heard of Requiem when I was living in upstate New York. After reading the book, I avoided Darren Aronofsky’s film adaptation for many years. For Selby’s book had instilled in me an intrinsic fear of aging. This fear was gripping. It was arresting and consuming and utterly exhausting. It wasn’t until I embraced the death of the American Dream, and came to realize the complete fallacy of its ideals, that I finally set my sights on making it through the movie.
Just as I had expected, Aronofsky’s vision closely mirrored Selby’s. I witnessed my fears materializing with Darren’s prodigious talent. And though I may say that throughout my life I have been affected by the films of Lars von Trier, Harmony Korine, Gaspar Noé and Todd Solondz…none of them have impacted me as heavily as Darren’s.
One of my favorite scenes in the movie (located on page 143 of Selby’s novel) was Sara Goldfarb’s monologue about “the red dress.” Ellen Burstyn, a favorite actress of mine since seeing her in the 1973 film, ‘The Exorcist,’ was nominated for an Academy Award after eliciting such sadness from audiences all over the world. Even cinematographer Matthew Libatique began to weep while filming Ellen as she recited it. Below I’ve included both the movie clip and monologue so you can see, with your own eyes, just how powerful the subject matter truly is. I hope it affects you in a similar fashion…as a very profound and well-written piece of American Literature.
Sara Goldfarb: I’m somebody now, Harry. Everybody likes me. Soon, millions of people will see me and they’ll all like me. I’ll tell them about you, and your father, how good he was to us. Remember? It’s a reason to get up in the morning. It’s a reason to lose weight, to fit in the red dress. It’s a reason to smile. It makes tomorrow all right. What have I got Harry, hm? Why should I even make the bed, or wash the dishes? I do them, but why should I? I’m alone. Your father’s gone, you’re gone. I got no one to care for. What have I got, Harry? I’m lonely. I’m old.
Harry Goldfarb: You got friends, Ma.
Sara Goldfarb: Ah, it’s not the same. They don’t need me. I like the way I feel. I like thinking about the red dress and the television and you and your father. Now when I get the sun, I smile.
-Hubert Selby Jr. (1978)