***SPOILERS – SPOILERS – SPOILERS –***
Please do not read this review if you do not wish to know plot developments
I feel I ought to begin by saying that I am not a hundred per cent certain I completely understood this movie. By which I mean to say, that whilst I understand the themes addressed, I am not sure I have fully grasped Bertolucci’s intent here.
I say this because Bertolucci is obviously an acknowledged master of cinema, and certainly this mastery is readily on display here. Nevertheless I personally felt the ultimate resolution of themes to be a little unsatisfactory. Now this may possibly be an objective failure of the film to attain its full potential, or I could be persuaded it is a failure of my subjective expectations in not allowing the freedom of movement the film’s scope was reaching for. I think I would have preferred something more comprehensive and unifying in the conclusion.
The story essentially follows the blossoming friendship between siblings Isabelle (Eva Green) and Theo (Louis Garrel) and American student Matthew (Michael Pitt) whom they befriend and take into their home in the socially tumultuous days of Paris in the nineteen sixties.
A rich thematic tapestry includes the topics of cinema as a subversive or revolutionary act; the personal adventure of sexual, emotional and intellectual freedom and discovery; class privilege; and social protest and revolution.
And this is where my frustration with the ending lay. The thread of the subject of cinema seemed to start very much to the fore but then inexplicably faded as the film progressed. The idea of social protest seemed generally remote through much of the film, and then at the end suddenly broke through the evident affluence and comfort of the main characters’ backgrounds, but from where? What was it within the experiences of Isabelle, Theo and Matthew that drove them to identify with the protests? It just didn’t tie together for me in the final act, and I felt the film suffered from an internal lack of cohesion as it played out.
But The Dreamers had many very enjoyable components. It certainly succeeded in creating an intoxicating, heady atmosphere in the family home. There were moments of absolutely delightful composition, such as the narrow corridor lined from floor to ceiling with bookshelves on the way round to the bedrooms, or the three-piece mirror reflecting the three young people soporifically bathing together in the bathtub, or the three of them asleep in the makeshift homemade tent in one of the large rooms.
I also loved the predominantly rich, warm hues of the interior shots and also the lovely architecture of the family home which lent a sense of grandeur to the story. I was struck too by what I can only describe as a kind of blunt, candid and matter-of-fact vision of nudity, a bold and human statement in the way the characters’ nakedness and sensuality was depicted.
Concerning the acting, am I being too cruel, I wonder, in describing it as being generally merely adequate? Of the three leads, I found Louis Garrel as Theo was the most fluid and organic. But I’m sorry to have to say I found the performances by Eva Green and Michael Pitt to be a little awkward and lacking in internal substance. However, Robin Renucci’s intense, muted portrayal of the pompous father who deemed himself a towering intellectual who had disdainfully figured everything out about life, was simply sublime.
In conclusion, I would say The Dreamers is definitely worth catching. It has a great deal to enjoy. And who knows, you may find it less frustrating than I did. But as you see, for me, the film had some substantial problems, so I find I cannot supply an unstintingly generous rating for this one.
Reuben’s Rating: 6/10