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The Dreamers (18)



Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: One

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Commentary by Bernardo Bertolucci, Gilbert Adair and Jeremy Thomas. Documentary: The Making of The Dreamers. Featurette: 'Outside the Window – Events in France, May 1968'. Michael Pitt and the Twins of Evil music video 'Hey Joe'.

‘PORN for film buffs’ is how one very weary critic responded to the latest film from Bernardo Bertolucci, after being forced to sit through almost two hours of its somewhat pretentious subject matter.

The Dreamers is exactly that type of movie, however, a hopelessly self-important arthouse piece, which fails to connect with all but the most ardent film fanatics.

Set against the political backdrop of France in the Spring of 1968, when the voice of youth was reverberating around Europe, the film follows young American student, Matthew (Michael Pitt), as he befriends the beautiful Isabelle (Eva Green) and her brother, Theo (Louis Garrel), and subsequently spends his time with them, while their parents are away on holiday.

What begins as a light-hearted Spring of indulgence, however, quickly becomes something far more sinister, as the trio begin to experiment with their emotions and sexuality, while playing a series of increasingly demanding, and often degrading, mind games, set against the backdrop of film.

Adapted for the screen from his original novel, by Gilbert Adair, the film takes place at a time when a protest against the sacking of the head of the French cinemathéque began a period of civil unrest in Paris, borne as much out of hope as out of frustration.

Or, as Bertolucci puts it, the film is ‘a reminder of a period when an entire generation woke up in the mornings with incredible expectations’.

Whether audiences will be able to stay awake, however, is a moot point, for this is the stuff of nightmares for anyone who doesn’t have a firm grasp of the films, or the politics, of the time.

Quite apart from the fact that none of the principal characters comes across as remotely identifiable, the film also falls into the trap of allowing them to operate as a clique, thereby snubbing the audience for large parts of the picture.

If you don’t empathise with them, or can’t grasp their motivations, or the political frustrations of the time, then you’re lost, and this becomes a hopelessly futile journey, which neither director, nor performers, feel as though it’s worth letting you into.

The film is also ill-served by the all-too frequent bouts of nudity and sex, which do little to break the monotony, particularly given some of the imagery which takes place (menstrual blood, at one stage, is employed for one warped declaration of feeling).

Had Bertolucci perhaps taken a little more time to explore the politics of the time, and a little less to explore the curves of his protagonists bodies, the film may have seemed a little more accessible; but, in the main, it presumes too much of its audience and ultimately leaves them frustrated.

Little wonder, then, that another critic emerged from the same screening groaning the term, ‘pretentious wank’ after he had seen it, for this is, indeed, an arduous journey, masquerading as something far more important than it really is.

 

 

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