For the longest while I’ve waited for on-request reviews and even then some of the ones I wrote never felt like they were doing justice. I felt tensed as I wrote those. I wasn’t sure what was expected of me. However, a complete stranger came along and explained why they felt so strongly about my reviews, sent me a bunch of movies they’d like me to write about and signed off as my biggest movie review fan. Not only does that flatter me but that fills me with a kind of inexplicable joy. So thank you, S for appreciating what I love doing best. You have no idea how much that means to me. No idea at all.
Matthew: “I was one of the insatiables. The ones you’d always find sitting closest to the screen. Why do we sit so close? Maybe it was because we wanted to receive the images first. When they were still new, still fresh. Before they cleared the hurdles of the rows behind us. Before they’d been relayed back from row to row, spectator to spectator; until worn out, secondhand, the size of a postage stamp, it returned to the projectionist’s cabin. Maybe, too, the screen was really a screen. It screened us… from the world.”
The Dreamers is the kind of movie I would give anything to watch once and then never again. It’s hard for me to explain why that is so, but in no way does that imply that it isn’t a great watch. The Dreamers is a film that makes me yearn for a life in France, in a stingy hotel in Paris, on well-paved streets that were walked all over by not so well-dressed people, in the 1960’s, at the tender age of 21, with nothing else to care about. That’s it.
It is simply an iconic representation of youth, of erotic love and passions of varying degrees, of the minds that lived through uncertainties but still found time to dream and to escape through cinema. We venture into France in 1968 through the eyes of Matthew (Michael Pitt), an American, doe-eyed, idealist young man away from his family – probably for the very first time in his life – who finds a whole new, enchanting world in the cinémathèque française.
We then meet Theo and Isabelle (Eva Green), a pair of twins that also frequent the cinémathèque and seem to be increasingly interested in knowing Matthew. The sudden interest and kindness shown by these French strangers immediately brings a feeling of belonging to Matthew and he’s quick to latch onto this hand of friendship – or so it seems at the start at least.
Sooner than later Matthew notices that Isabelle and Theo are more than just siblings and share certain intimacies and sleep together in the same bed. Matthew’s curiosity and vulnerability are all so natural and his attraction towards Isabelle from the first sight, extremely evident. When Isabelle explains that she and Theo are twins and that they’ve always been connected and part of each other, my heart soared. This might be one of those few movies out there that takes the concept of incest and doesn’t try too hard to justify it. Theo and Isabelle just are who they are and they know not a world without each other.
So when the twins’ parents head out for a long trip, Theo, Isabelle and Matthew burrow into a fantasy ménage à trois. They lose all idea about time and appetite and they only care about existing in dream-like moments. Matthew settles into this arrangement like a hand in a glove and the character development is brilliant. Matthew goes from the prim and proper guy who sat at the dining table with the twins’ parents, grateful for the wonderful dinner, always polite and promptly answering “likewise” (which is honestly the most American way of replying to well wishes) to the guy who felt no shame in sharing a bath tub with the twins themselves.
The extended depiction of this erotic cocoon that the trio build around themselves does a fantastic job of pulling you into something less important than the main story. Which is what, exactly? I found myself questioning that a couple of times. Yes, the controversy is there. Yes, I see that Matthew’s understanding of violence and France are still vastly foreign but honestly what are Theo and Isabelle doing about it that makes them any different from him? They’re all still voyeurs, hiding in that mansion, indulging in erotic exchanges and turning away from the reality. I don’t like to act as though I understand everything and I guess cinema is an art that even if you don’t entirely get, you can never fail at appreciating. But everything comes together neatly at the end when in the snap of a moment, Theo and Isabelle mature into people who can actually make a decision on their own. Matthew walks away to realize he might not want what they want with their life. That certain experiences, certain people only last a while and you take what they gave you and turn around and walk.
It would seem ridiculous to me if Isabelle actually ended up wanting a relationship with Matthew. That was not who she was and although she did the whole dance of a proper date with him, Isa and Theo shared the twin connection I find so intriguing and compelling and can never get enough of.
The references to timeless classics, the movie quizzes brought up at random points, the love for cinema greater than all else, those are the things I take with me from this movie. It also makes me question how little I know about black and white movies back from that time and as of now I endeavour to change that. The only way The Dreamers will get any better for me now is to go and read a review of it by the late Roger Ebert because there’s no way he could’ve missed reviewing a gem such as this.