Why Clint Mansell’s ‘Requiem for a Dream’ Sheet Music Gets Under Your Skin

Musical motifs are an infernal drug. Besides, drugs are one hell of a drug.

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By Meg Shields Published May 18, 2022

Welcome to The Queue – your daily distraction from curated video content from across the web. Today we’re watching a video essay looking at why Darren Aronofsky’s score for Requiem for a Dream is so terrifying.


One of the bloodiest horror movies ever made, Requiem for a Dream It arguably did more to get kids off drugs than DARE. An incredibly bleak and emotionally devastating revolutionary feature of darren aronofsky, the 2000 film follows four Coney Island residents whose utopian dreams are constantly crushed by their respective addictions. As fame-obsessed Sara (Ellen Burstyn) gobbles up speed to lose weight for an upcoming game show appearance, her son (Jared Leto) and his circle (Marlon Wayans and Jennifer Connelly) chase their own dreams and dragons. with equally horrible results.

One of the most iconic (if you want to call it that) components of the film, aside from its nightmare-inducing visuals, is its score. Composed by clint mansell (in his second of six collaborations with Aronofsky), the track “Lux Aeterna” was especially inescapable at the turn of the millennium. Today, it is undeniably recognizable even if I haven’t seen the Aronofsky movie; an unresolved melody that churns and swirls, eternally chasing its tail like all four of our tragic leads.

But, as the video essay points out, it’s worth putting the iconic track in context. As the video essay below explains in evocative detail, there are six main musical motifs in the middle of Mansell’s score: Eternal light (the film’s thesis depicting the failure of dreams to succeed under the shadow of addiction); party (overflowing with contagious high energy); sleep (which, as its name suggests, connotes unrealistic planning); ghost (a wistful refrain for the film’s doomed lovers); weather (overflowing with overwhelming emotional), and finally meltdown (a painful climax about the consequences of addiction).

The essay breaks down each of these motifs one by one, conveying how each is woven throughout the film’s narrative and reinforced with visceral and unnerving sound design (I never need to hear a bone saw again). , thank you). Enjoy it and remember to choose your poisons wisely!

The following video essay contains some story spoilers, this is your warning! Also, while I assume this film’s reputation precedes it, please note that the video essay contains disturbing imagery.

Watch “Requiem for a Dream’s Effective Scoring”:


Who did this?

This video essay on what makes the sheet music of Requiem for a Dream so scary is by Spikima Movies, a Korean-Canadian who has been leaving gems on YouTube since 2019. You can subscribe to the Spikima channel for more amazing essays here. And you can follow them on Letterboxd here.

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Related Topics: Music, Requiem for a Dream, The Tail

Meg Shields is the humble farmer of your dreams and a main contributor to Film School Rejects. She currently runs three columns at FSR: The Queue, How’d They Do That? and Horrorscope. She is also the curator of One Perfect Shot and a freelance writer for hire. Meg can be found yelling about John Boorman’s ‘Excalibur’ on Twitter here: @TheWorstMonja. (She she).

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