Amy Winehouse is now back in the UK from her rehabilitative vacation, and putting her life-threatening drug addiction behind her.

It is said that she came back with a fresh new start this time, but old habits can die hard.

If she manages to resist temptation it would be a real-life happy ending to Requiem for a Dream.

If there is anything that can make reality more like a dream and drive dreams far away, it is addiction, whether to drug, dream or truth.

When Sara (Ellen Burstyn) was desperately chasing her dreams of stardom in Requiem for a Dream, her son (Jared Leto) and his girlfriend (Jennifer Connelly) were rapt in the fantasy of a happy life.

But that "happy life" was an illusion brought about by a severe drug addiction.

Only a warm but hopeless dream connected them tightly together.

Whether finding the satisfaction of either mind or body, they end up with endless pain.

Using: drugs in China

The recently released Chinese documentary film Using tells a real story about drug addiction and shattered dreams.

A Long and A Jun are a couple, one of whom is addicted to drugs, and they also have a friend who is an addict.

The difference is that instead of a mother living in a fantasy world as in Requiem, here the film director – who also plays a role in the film – is seeking the truth.

Over the course of three years, he makes friends with the addict, buys him a meal and goes as far as to lend him money.

However, he ends up being cheated two hundred yuan by the addict, who buys drugs with his money.

The filmmaker recorded the close relationship between him and the addicts in order to reflect the authenticity of the story.

But he also depicts the addicts' lies, which ruined his plan.

The devil's kiss

What really differentiates the two films from each other is the source of pain that, step by step, pushed them to the devil's kiss of drugs.

In Requiem for a Dream, the desperation comes from the conflict between body and mind, the constraint of dreams and the restlessness of the heart.

However in Using, the pain is rooted in the dark side of society.

Vulnerable people can hardly survive the social crisis, which emerges from distrust between people, indifference to each other and the polarization between the rich and the poor.

The film also investigates at close range a dark and cruel layer of reality within contemporary Chinese society, one that has rarely been broadcast.

The documentary also reveals the mutually 'using' relationship between the director and his subject.

Though the addict used the director's trust to cheat him, the director also used the record of their interactions to achieve his desired effect – adding a dark shade of humour to the heavy subject matter of the film.

Photo by Andrew Otto
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Using: the dark dream of drugs

By: Peng Hua