Back in 1998, I was ploughing my way through a pile of independant films when I stumbled upon a strange minimal masterpiece of science-fiction by Darren Aronofsky called Pi. The score immediately caught my attention. It was composed by a certain Clint Mansell, largely unknown at that time. It is quite rare to hear an electronic soundtrack that has as much depth and inspiration as an instrumental one, so I made a mental note... Fast-foward another two years and a new Aronofsky film was released and...yet another Clint Mansell score. This one on the other hand hadn't slipped under the radar; it was in fact quite the talk among the press. Little did I know that another year or two down the line, Mansell's theme for Requiem for a Dream would have a similar effect to that of the Usual Suspects; it would be heard in numerous trailers, TV spots and an inumerable amount of documentaries too.
The music of Requiem for a Dream is intense and beautiful on the one hand and dark and daring on the other. This hypnotic quality lasts throughout the entire score and brings electronic composers such as Fernando Corona (a.k.a Murcof) to mind. It is the sheer exquisiteness of the carefully placed drones and minimal percussive bleeps that give Requiem its true subtlety. On top of this, the beautiful clarity of the viola, cello and strings are provided by the Kronos Quartet, adding an extra human dimension to the whole. The score is split into 33 tracks, all in chronological order, each segments of the seasons Summer, Autumn (Fall in the film) and Winter. The Summer Overture is the first track on Requiem for a Dream and acts as the first in a series of explorations of the main theme. It is in itself a fantastic achievement. The music is gentle and slow-burning yet full of anguish and foreboding. The main theme is played a large amount of time throughout the score but never feels overused as subtle changes are introduced each time.
Minimal electronic pieces such as "Party" and "High on Life" provide us with some of the score's more upbeat moments. The most impressive of these has to be "Crimin' and Dealin'". Don't let the R&B-sounding title fool you though; this is an ode to oldschool hip-hop and the minimal drum and bass scene. I found myself bobbing up and down like and idiot during the whole thing...loved it in other words. "Bialy & Lox" and "Bugs Got a Devilish Grin" surprise us with Mansell's own brand of distorted conga. His interpretation of the insanity of reality-TV and a character's descent into madness are incredible. While the first of these tracks is rather upbeat, the second is laced with delirious free-jazz and a somewhat menacing tone. "Ghosts of Things to Come" deserves special attention too. Its warm violins swell beautifully until bursting open like the petals of a flower. With so much variation and colour, it becomes clear at this point that you are dealing with a masterful score.
The more daring and experimental tracks start appearing in the final section of the score (Winter). In particular, "The Beginning of the End" and "Meltdown" are the most intense examples of this. I would compare these with Thomas Bangalter's dark scoring of the underground nightclub scene in Irreversible (Garpar Noe, 2002). The Kronos Quartet violins are played in a repetitive and disonant manner alongside screeching electronics. The sole intention is to put the listener in a constant state of stress and despair; they may be quite hard to listen to for some, but I believe these tracks to be the most spectacular ones on Requiem. A secondary theme makes numerous apperances too. I suppose you could call this the "Coney Island theme". It is a soporific little gem that sways gently into motion, carried by gentle technoid thuds and a macabre glass bell melody...a sign of the dark things that are to come.
In sumary, Requiem for a Dream is an absolute masterpiece. Fortunately the commercial score is very complete so there is no need to wait for a special edition. (There are a few tracks not present on the US version but this will not spoil your enjoyment as all the main music is present.) The soundtrack album is available from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com