The second you realize you forgot your parachute

"That's the point of the movie and the book: the lengths people go to escape their reality. This film is a nose dive into the ground and, beyond the ground, into the sub-basement of hell. When I pitched the movie, I told people that I wanted it to be like you jumped out of an airplane and about midway coming down you remember that you forgot your parachute."That's where the movie begins—the second you realize you forgot your parachute. And the film ends five minutes after you hit the ground, and you're alive during that last five minutes, catching your last few breaths. For me, that's what the film was, a roller coaster that smashes into a brick wall. I wanted no catharsis at the end; [I wanted it to be] just as harsh and intense as possible. It's a punk movie where the audience is a mosh pit of emotion. "
           —Darren Aronofsky, interview with

For about two weeks now, this quote has been sitting, archived, on my desktop, waiting for me to come back to it. Rather like the movie—Requiem for a Dream—itself.

I can say two things about this movie. One, that it's one of the most brilliant pieces of filmmaking I have ever seen. Two, that while I say that I never, ever want to see it again, that when my friends sit down to watch it, I might consent to watch it again, as well.

But not to watch the film. Instead, to watch the effect the movie has on them.

Renting this movie brought to the forefront something I've noticed in a few movie-rental chains, but never really thought much about. In Madison, which is (as far as government work is concerned) where I live, there are really two options for movie rental stores. Movie Gallery and Hollywood Video are all we get out here.

I noticed the movie was available in Hollywood Video, picked it up, and planned to rent it, and then noticed two words on the cover that made me blanch, flinch, and put the movie back:

"Edited Version."

Since then, I've discovered that Hollywood Video doesn't carry films that garner an NC-17 rating, or choose to take a NR (no rating) in the stead of the dreaded NC-17. On my way home, I drove—out of my way—to Movie Gallery, whose employee confirmed that they carried the original version of the movie, and not the edited version. But, of course, the movie was out on rental. I would have to come back another day.

As I drove home, I became angry about the policy at Hollywood Video—surprising, considering that they're by far the better of the two movie stores.

Why? Because I'm an adult. With that comes responsibility—and rights, which dovetail with it. It's my responsibility to check on the movies that I plan to view, to ensure that I'm not unintentionally renting something that will just horrify or revulse me (one of a few reasons why I won't see "Hannibal").

However, once I'm done with my research, am I not adult enough to watch a movie as Aronofsky intended for it to be seen? I understand that the edited version was made with his consent and approval, but the film is not the same as the version that was intended for release. I understand that the movie is not for children, but I am not a child. I am old enough to, if I decide to, watch images that disturb and frighten me.

I greatly dislike a corporation deciding what I can, and can't, watch. I neither need nor want some faceless corporate decision-maker deciding for me what is appropriate or inappropriate.

So, a few days later, I went back to Movie Gallery, and rented Requiem—the original version. I went home and watched it, alone, in the middle of the day. It was the first movie—ever—that I have had to pause halfway through so that I could go to another room and gulp in some fresh air and quiet sanity before returning to the film.

It is the first movie I've ever seen that put me inside the head of an addict, made me understand why they did why they did—and then pulled away. Up, out of their minds, and then spun the camera around to show me the depravity they put themselves through in order to buy themselves the fleeting peace of the high.

I came away desperate for light, for normality. I fixed myself a glass of milk and sat outside for a few minutes, letting the sunlight pour down on my face while I tried to make sense of what I'd seen and experienced.

Requiem is an experience, in the truest sense of the word. The filmmaking is exquisite, the trick shots creating purpose instead of gimmickry, the acting simply superb. Ellen Burstyn was robbed of an Oscar; I hope that her future career success reflects the incredible risk she took in taking on a role as physically and mentally demanding as the one she accepted in Requiem.

Requiem was released into theatres under a NR (not rated) to avoid the dreaded NC-17, which would have killed its box-office potential. The distribution company, in turn, asked movie theatres to enforce an adults-only policy, which I think was an unorthodox but acceptable way of handling the situation.

Are there noticeable differences between the NR and the R version? Yes, and it's very obvious what was cut. Will I mention what scene? No, I won't—if you really want to know, the information's available out on the web; however, if you plan to see the movie, let me suggest to you that you NOT find out about it beforehand. Requiem is best experienced as the characters experience it—with no foreknowledge of what their lives hold.

I'm grateful that I at least got to see the unrated version—that is, if one can say that they're glad they saw this movie at all. It's memorable like a suckerpunch is memorable.

You're not going to laugh, and you're not going to cry. You're going to walk away from the movie with a knot in your gut and an appreciation for the normalcy of everyday life. You're going to wake up the next morning and thank your deity of choice that you aren't a character in this film. You should see it—once. Once, to understand the terrifying power that filmmakers can wield, and how something so painful, so personal, so gut-wrenching, can be called a masterwork.

Parachutes not allowed.