Requiem for a Dream

By: Jeremy Lim and Charles King

Overall Transition from Book to Movie

Compared to most book to movie comparisons, Requiem for a Dream’s transition from words to images was smooth and did the best it could for only being a 1 hour, 42 minute film.

Similarities and Differences in Plot

The introduction scene of Marion and Harry’s story is completely different. In the book, the two are seen in a crack house late at night. They are with multiple people and receive a fresh batch of heroin. After shooting up, they all relax in the building and zone out to a flashing blue light. The flashing blue light is supposed to help readers get a feel for what the characters were feeling while high. It helps visualize a group of drug users staring out into a blue light late at night. However, in the movie, the introduction is portrayed by Harry and Marion meet in a lawn. The two meet and run into a building. They go to the highest floor, turn off emergency exit alarms, and go out on the balcony. Marion and Harry relax up there and throw paper airplanes down the building. Eventually, the two go back and set off the alarm and escape the building. This introduction helps give the audience a feel that Marion and Harry are “hoodrats”. They like to have fun and mess around. They are like the typical young adult kids who like to have fun and live on the edge.


Sara Goldfarb constantly watches T.V. throughout the story. The book describes the show, but the movie helps out because of the sound. There is one point in the movie where you can hear the T.V. say “I was an overweight man living in a nice apartment…” The show was about quitting addiction and improving your life in “3 simple steps.” The man on the T.V. contrasts with Sara’s life because at the beginning she is an overweight female living in a decent apartment. Except, the man on T.V. changes his life while Sara gets worse and worse throughout the movie.


There’s a scene in the movie (before they start selling drugs) where Harry looks out of his window while high and has a vision about running out on a dock during the day. He sees Marion’s back in a red dress at the end of the dock. He runs towards her and then reality sets back in. At the end of the movie (when Harry is in the hospital), the same scene comes back in Harry’s head except this time there is no Marion waiting and after he runs to the end he steps back and falls into darkness.


When Sara goes to the doctor to get her first prescription of diet pills, the doctor comes into the room and never once makes eye contact or examines Sara’s body. The only thing he does is goes in talks to her while staring at her measurements on the patient paper and then leaves. The book mentions the doctor’s harsh and non thorough examination of Sara, but the movie helps show that the doctor does not care at all and treats her as an asset instead of an actual patient.


The book goes into HEAVY detail about Marion and Harry building a coffee shop together. The movie shows Harry giving Marion the plans about it but never goes into detail about the dream. The movie doing this is a detriment towards the theme in the book about the harmful effects of the “American Dream.” The book focuses a dual theme system of harmful effects of addiction and the American Dream. The movie focuses more on just the addiction part (in my opinion).


In my opinion, the movie speeds up Marion, Harry, and Tyrone’s timeline in order to keep the climaxes matched with Sara’s plot line. The book goes more into detail about Marion, Harry, and Tyrone’s adventures. The movie takes the important ones and leaves out the minor details, thus seeming to speed up the events in their story line.


The film uses a line of sequences multiple times of shots including the drug, cells, eyes dilating, taking pills, etc. These sequences are fast and include sound effects for each shot, which helps give a feeling of repetition of using drugs and pills.


The movie skips the part where Harry and Marion go to the city in order to buy the new TV for Harry’s mother. The book shows that in this scene, Harry confidently uses more money in order to get a cab that gets them directly to the store instead of getting out early to walk there, despite Marion telling Harry that they should save money and walk a little. Then in the store, Harry confidently buys the TV without regret and falls for the salesman’s words. He then talk about how he feels powerful and that the people working are kind of like his servants. Later, the books shows Harry thinking about his actions at the store and feeling like he acted way less confident and cool then he thought he did at the time. This is another scene that the movie takes away that detriments the theme of the American Dream. This scene shows how having purchasing power helps give confidence and cool. He easily falls for and believes what the salesman is telling him. He ends up buying one of the most expensive TVs because he has the power to buy and so he did. He falls in for the materialistic trap.


The movie has a limo scene at night where Tyrone is with his dealer and his group. The dealer promotes Tyrone and then the window rolls down from the middle divider and the driver shoots and kills the dealer. In the book, this never actually happens and instead Tyrone and Harry find a dead body in the streets with his pockets completely empty.


The movie shows the scene where Tyrone goes to jail for a couple of hours but doesn’t show the part where he talks to an old guy in jail. This old guy was telling stories about his past with drugs and how to avoid getting caught and things like that. Instead, the movie cuts the old guy out. This old guy was significant in the book because after Tyrone met him, he always thought of what the old guy was saying in his head and at times warned Tyrone.


The movie does something clever. Marion wakes up in the middle of night troubled because she didn’t get her fix of drugs before going to bed for the first night and later does the rest of what Harry and Marion have together. This is in the book. However, the movie shows a scene where Harry gives her a glass of water after she wakes up troubled. Then, instead of drinking the water (which in a way symbolizes life, pureness, being clean) she immediately puts the water on her bedside table and gets up to do drugs with Harry (which symbolizes the fact that she pushes life and pureness away to do drugs and fulfill her addiction).


The movie shows Marion going to Big Tim’s to get more drugs. The movie skips the part where Big Tim is analyzed. The audience of the movie can see that he is well off, but doesn’t show how cultured Big Tim is (no jazz music playing in the movie). Leaving that out is not a huge problem but what is is that Big Tim never makes fun of Marion for being a drug addict. The book shows that he does and then Marion denies that she is and would never stoop so low. Leaving this part out takes away the emphasis of her drug problem.


The movie skips this scene of a nice doctor visiting Sara (once she’s hospitalized for going crazy). The nice doctor sees that the main doctor failed at placing Sara in the therapy section of the hospital and complains to the director of the hospital. The director gets mad at the nice doctor saying that he’s not as qualified as the doctor that placed Sara in the mental ward. In addition, the director talks about how running a hospital has to be done smoothly and as efficiently as possible. By taking this scene out, the American Dream aspect is once again missing because this shows the greed in the director of the hospital. He does not care much for his patients as long as the hospital is functioning and working as efficiently as possible.

Similarities and Differences in Characters

Tyrone is way way more sensitive in the movie. Although both show in the end that he was a momma’s boy, the book portrays him mostly as the tough guy. The movie makes him seem a little more sensitive from the get go.


Sara’s character in the movie is more likable than her character in the book. The movie also portrays her ending more difficult and emotional than in the book.


Because the movie skips the minor details of Harry, Tyrone, and Marion’s storyline, the romance between Marion and Harry is never truly there. Of course you can obviously tell there are in love but the book shows the full romance and connection between the two.


There’s a scene where Harry reveals to Sara that he bought her a brand new T.V. Most of it is in parallel with the book except that the book shows Harry at one point non stop kissing his mother and not knowing why. This helps show that Harry loves his mother and lets his unconscious feelings come out. However, the movie shows him kissing her once or twice and doesn’t show the connection. Instead, there’s an added scene where Harry cries in the cab on the way home from his mother’s apartment.


Throughout the movie, Marion’s appearance and makeup gets darker. The movie starts out showing her wearing blue shirt with light make up. But by the end of the movie, Marion is wearing dark clothes, dark red lipstick, dark eyeliner, and black nails. This goes hand in hand with her life. She starts out okay even though she does drugs. Later her problem gets out of hand and she gets deeper and deeper into addiction.


An added scene of Sara’s friend crying outside of the mental ward. The books shows them going into the hospital and giving Sara food (like the movie) but the added scene of them crying makes Sara’s life sadder and shows how the addiction can hurt the close ones around you.

Marion in the beginning of the movie always lays down on her couch with Harry. At the end of the movie, Harry is long gone in a hospital while Marion is shown lying down on the same couch except she's hugging her heroin tightly.


The end of the movie shows all the main characters rolling up into a fetal position. This shows how they all ruined their lives and the natural human tendency is for humans to roll up into the fetal position when emotionally damaged.


Minor Details:

Sara Goldfarb has a picture of her wearing her red dress at Harry’s Bar Mitzvah in the book. The movie shows the picture of her wearing it at Harry’s high school graduation. This was probably done to integrate it to American culture.


Sara’s friend, Alda, suggests Sara a diet book in the movie. In the book, Sara actually goes to a library and talks to people in order to find a diet book.


Sara tells herself that “I’m thinking thin” in the movie. In the book, the word “zophtic” (or zaftig) is used throughout the entire novel. The word means plump and curvy, which Shelby thought was a good word to describe females. It was changed to thin in the movie in order to integrate it better for audiences.


After Marion’s first dinner date with Arnold, she kisses him before leaving in the book. The movie skips the kiss and shows her during the date joking around him more. She’s making fun of Arnold more in the movie than in the book.


Sara Goldfarb eats a sandwich after taking her first diet pill. In doing so, she gets up with the sandwich and there's a scene of multiple minutes of her dancing around in her apartment. This was never in the book and shows how much she was addicted to fatty and unhealthy foods.


Although Marion going crazy is added in the movie, the book uses more scenes of just her in her apartment waiting for Harry’s deals. There are many times where she goes crazy. The movie just shows her going insanely mad for about 1 to 2 times.

When Marion goes to Arnold to get more money, Harry goes crazy with the time on his watch. He continually stares at the time and eventually calls a hotline on his phone that repeats the time in a voice. The movie skips this part. It would have been cool to include it because it shows how screwed up Harry’s head is and they could have done a cool scene showing how many problems he is facing because he has drug addiction.

Trailer for the Movie

Requiem for a Dream (2000) Official HD Trailer [1080p]