Here are two films that take a very different look at drug culture, one in Scotland/England, the other in the U.S.A. Despite both films taking a very different approach from one another, they both more or less end up at the same conclusion. Heroin is the fucking the devil. And if you can get out, it’s never an easy thing because heroin turns you into your own worst enemy.
“Trainspotting” is a very early film from Danny Boyle who would go on to make such films as “28 Days Later” and “Slumdog Millionaire”. After watching this film, I can’t really say that he’s ever been any better than he is here. “Trainspotting” explodes with energy, be it through the soundtrack, kinetic camera movements, or interactions of its main cast members, the film never slows down for a second. Even Ewan McGrergor’s detox is turned into a hellish nightmare scenario that is as enthralling to watch as it is terrifying to imagine living through. Sure, for those of us not born in the United Kingdom, the accents can grow hard to follow occasionally, but that’s not something you can fault the filmmakers for. For better or worse, by the end of ‘Trainspotting” you’ll feel like you just spent a hell of a night out with some of your closest friends, but you know that the next morning is going to be harsh. The film doesn’t really leave you with much of a feeling once it’s over, but like Heroin, you can sense that the film creates within you a sort of habit. You’re going to want to watch it over and over again just to experience the rush.
“Requiem for a Dream” was a much easier film to watch than I thought it was going to be. It’s one of those films that practically everyone I know has seen and they all talk about how depressing (though amazing) it is to watch. What surprised me about the film is how energetic it is. Sure, it’s often depressing, and downright tragic by the end, but the entire story (like “Trainspotting”) moves along at a breakneck pace. It’s highly stylized (and sometimes overly so) but incredibly moving. The performances are all also uniformly strong, from Ellen Burstyn, to Jennifer Connelly, to more surprisingly, Jared Leto and Marlon Wayans. Everybody does an awesome job. The end of the film begins to drag and loses itself somewhat in the (no doubt) faithfulness of its adaptation (Electro-shock therapy in the 2000’s, really?) but the denouement makes sense from a character standpoint. And as a sort of side note: the DVD menus to the film are downright awesome. Plus, how crazy is it that Darren Arfonofsky bought the entire rights to the anime film “Perfect Blue” (which is one of my favourite anime films) just so that he could recreate a moment from that film with Jennifer Connelly in a bathtub?
It’s hard for me to say just which film is the stronger of the two. “Requiem for a Dream” is probably a better film as far as the criterion for dramatics and filmmaking go, but “Trainspotting” was definitely more entertaining to watch. Either way, if you can stomach hardcore drug use, ass to ass sex, and lots of sickness, these two films provide some very enthralling moments.
Requiem for a Dream Trailer: