Matchup of the Day: The Treasure of the Sierra Madre vs. Requiem for a Dream
Today we have a couple of films about how NOT to pursue a goal – The Treasure of the Sierra Madre vs. Requiem for a Dream.
Both of these films are about people who have big dreams but get lost in the pursuit. Madre tells the tale of three prospectors in Mexico out to strike it rich digging for gold. The most cynical of them, Dobbs, played by Humphrey Bogart, exists in a constant state of paranoia regarding the motivations of his partners. Howard, the eldest of the trio, may be cynical as well – though he has developed a pragmatic sense of humor about his fellow man over the years. The third prospector, Curtin, is cautious, yet willing to give his partners the benefit of the doubt. Each of them has a plan for how they wish to spend their share of the gold.
Dream involves four people who also have plans for a better life. The main character, Harry, is a drug addict who, with his friend, Tyrone, wants to make his fortune with a big drug score. Harry’s girlfriend, Marion, earns money prostituting herself – though she aspires to be a fashion designer. His mother, Sara, spends her days watching television. When she is invited to be a game show contestant, her lonely life suddenly has meaning. Sara decides that she needs to lose weight so she can fit into her red dress and look good on TV. This leads to her taking diet pills.
The three prospectors set a goal for the amount of gold they intend to acquire and their efforts prove successful. Complications arise when another man (who may be more decent than any of them) discovers their enterprise. He suggests that they take him on as a fourth partner. After some deliberation, they decide the best way to handle him is with a bullet. Before they can carry out the murder a group of banditos engage them in a gunfight. The man they intended to kill is instead shot by the Mexicans. Afterward, as they are preparing to return to town to cash in their gold, some Indians show up asking for help. One of their children nearly drowned and requires medical assistance. Howard agrees to go with them. Dobbs and Curtin start back to town with Howard’s share, promising to meet up with him later.
After two unsuccessful drug deals, Harry and Tyrone head off from New York to Florida for another score. Harry’s arm becomes infected from shooting too much heroin. Sara overdoses on diet pills and loses her mind. She hallucinates that her refrigerator is a monster and that people from television are in her living room. Marion, in need of a drug fix, delves deeper into prostitution. The last ten minutes or so are probably more jarring and depressing than most any other film, as each character’s fate is depicted in a disturbing montage of misery.
Dobbs succumbs to his paranoia and accuses Curtin of plotting against him. He shoots Curtin, but fails to kill him. Curtin manages to find Howard, who tends to his wound. Together they set out after Dobbs. When he stops for water, Dobbs runs into the banditos from the shootout. They murder him without being aware of all the wealth he’s carrying. They cut open the sacks of gold, believing the contents be sand. The gold has already blown away by time Curtin and Howard arrive. Viewing the situation as some sort of cosmic joke, the two have a hearty laugh.