This post marks both a deviation and a homecoming. Nick Rombes, of The Rumpus; Filmmaker Mag; Do Not Screen (see my participation at this destination as well); & others, has graciously permitted me to take part in his project, Requiem 102, wherein folks of intimidating intellectual and analytical capacity deconstruct the singular moments of Darren Aronofsky’s 2000 film, Requiem for a Dream. Deviation, because this subject is decidedly outside the purview of San Francisco film culture, and homecoming, because writing about film has taken a backseat (backhand?) in recent months. Let’s get to it. Minute 41. Which by my math, is somewhere around frame #57601.
Here’s a tidbit that I recall from elementary school science class: plants have a tendency to grow toward the light. It’s called phototropism, says the Internet. But what happens when a plant has had enough light? When its warmed, elongated cells have been saturated? Will it have the good sense to turn the other way, not to gorge itself on what must certainly feel like a kind of bottomless and euphoric fix? Moreover, if two plants cohabitate, one within straining distance of some venetian slats, and one shivering in the darkness, will that lucky one have the sympathy to not shove-off so quickly in to the bright sun?
The plant lurking in Sarah Goldfarb’s Brighton Beach flat seems to lean away from the natural light presently nourishing the underside of its oblong leaf. This is doubly surprising, considering the scarcity of potential photosynthetic sources in the room. Opposite the plant, are a pair of light switches, whose downturned orientation is responsible for deflecting our attention from corners, crevices, divets, and cracks – for bundling the frame in a ribbon of diffusive shadow. A sickly green light floods Sarah’s barefaced kitchen backsplash. Somewhere in our celestial expanse, a star glows green on a dusty horizon, and on that planet, paprika-colored fronds wax gloriously through winter wavelengths.
Mrs. Goldfarb’s gaze is treacherously fixated on an unoccupied chair, her face contorted and jaw clenched. She viciously wields a coffee pot. I believe the liquid is scalding hot, because she handles it with the language of a threat and not a courtesy. If it is indeed a weapon, and she an assailant, then toward whom or what is her dread so acutely realised? What class of unseen thing could excite the perniciousness of an empty domestic space so precisely?
There is another unseen character in the space depicted here, evident to acquaintances of the frames that will usurp this singular moment. Behind Sarah’s lunging profile rests an appliance normally mandated with cooling and preserving food, and on the occasion that you’re strung out on some alchemic combination of diet pills and valium, freaking you the fuck out while it prances tauntingly – a fridge possessed.
The fact that our solitary clock grimaces at 4:25 (or is your eyesight better than mine?) bears no special meaning for Requiem, at least to my reading. Still, indiscriminate in form, and decorative in no sense, we can believe this clock will function mechanically and acurately – unlike Sarah’s experience of her diet, unlike Harry’s experience of his addiction, unlike our experience of the film, and, let’s face it, unlike time whatsoever.
Zeaxanthin, it turns out. It’s the inhibitory chemical that plants manufacture when they’ve had their “chloro-fill”. This compound imparts an orange hue (and if it’s a red, then I wanna know - what’s orange?) to paprika and other carotenoid-bearing flora. Is there some entrenched, organic substance that surges through the veins of a common houseplant, causing it to seek out more than its share of sun? So nature herself tells us: one good chemical ritual deserves another.