We’ve got a winner!

Requiem for a Dream follows the stories of Sara Goldfarb, her son Harry and his girlfriend Marion Silver through three seasons of a year in New York. In the beginning of the movie Harry is regularly selling his mother’s television set to fund his heroin addiction. Harry and his friend Tyrone come up with a plan to make money selling drugs around Coney Island. They are successful during the summer and Harry and Marion have hopes of opening a fashion store selling Marion’s designs. During this time Sara, who is an avid watcher of infomercials, receives a calls saying she has been chosen to be on television. She becomes fixated on fitting into the red dress she wore to Harry’s graduation so that she can wear it when she goes on television. After struggling with a diet at first, she goes to a doctor who prescribes her amphetamine pills to lose weight.

As fall begins Tyrone gets caught in the middle of a drug gang shooting and is arrested which substantially cuts into the money he and Harry made from selling drugs over the summer. Because of the drug gang war it becomes near impossible to obtain drugs. Sara has become increasingly addicted to the amphetamine pills and is hallucinating that the refrigerator is attacking her and that she is in the infomercials that she watches on television.

In winter begins Harry, Marion and Tyrone have run out of money and drugs. Harry and Tyrone decide to go to Florida to get drugs and Marion exchanges sexual acts for heroin in New York. On the drive to Florida Harry’s arm becomes infected from unsanitary injections and they are forced to take him to a hospital where he and Tyrone are arrested. Sara’s addiction has increased and she takes the subway to the television studio in Manhattan to ask when she will be put on television. The police are called and she is committed to a psychiatric ward in a hospital.

There are a handful of ethical issues in this movie but I’d like to focus on Sara’s need to lose weight at the expense of her health and Marion’s willingness to do anything for the drugs she desires.

Sara starts the amphetamine pills without knowing that they can be harmful and addictive. However, when Harry confronts her about their danger, Sara tells him that the idea of being on television has given her a reason to live and it has given her importance among the other women in the apartment complex. She had been living so long without husband and with a distant and troubled son that she needed to feel like she was achieving something. Even though I have watched this movie several times, I have never understood the significance of the infomercial she watches constantly or her desire to be on that specifically. Even though it is an ethical decision to continue the pills after Harry has warned her about their danger, at a certain point I believe that it was no longer a decision for Sara to keep taking them because she was so far into her psychosis to have any real grip on reality and make a conscious decision to stop or continue the pills.

Marion has several instances where she compromises herself sexually for what she needs. She first is talked into having sex with her psychiatrist for money so that Harry can buy drugs. There is an implication that this is not the first time she has been with this man and has received favors from him before in exchange for sex. Later when she has been without heroin for a few days she decides to go to a man that she knows will only give her drugs in exchange for sex. Despite her saying that she is not an addict, he knows that she will do anything to get her drug fix and takes advantage of that by putting her in a “sex show” for a group of men. It seems like she has long ago devalued herself as far sex goes. It is not something that she is afraid to use to get what she wants however, she has some self-hatred for doing these things. 

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