“Bertolucci is cinema”


As Theo says to Matthew in The Dreamers, “Nicholas Ray is cinema”, we too can say, “Bernardo Bertolucci is cinema”. Cinema is a dream of sorts, a projected fantasy that seeps into our own reality, which is exactly what the three characters in The Dreamers aspire to achieve. Theo and Matthew argue about Chaplin and Keaton, Chaplin is a showman, but Keaton is a real filmmaker; Isabelle plays sadistic games that arise out of a forfeit, because the movie buff wasn’t buff enough. Not only is there a battle for love between these characters, but a battle for love over cinema, which informs every waking moment of the trio’s behaviours. Everything becomes a metaphor for cinema: the thought-provoking ideas, the irrational arguments, and the expanded consciousness are all attributable to what cinema seeks in content.

Michael Pitt is a cool American. He wears his blonde hair back and a straight-laced jacket and jeans to his own perfection. He is in love with the cinemateque, which may explain why he is yet to make any friends, but this will inevitably become the place where he does make friends, in the comfort of Parisian brother (Louis Garrel) and sister (Eva Green). This is just perfect. Matthew narrates with a strong sense of nostalgia that he never wanted that first night to end; a first night in which they walked the streets of Paris at night. We can all relate to the blissful stagnation of a new friendship that blossoms faster than we’d expected, the immediate understanding of another human being that brings our thoughts into a place of peace. However, the peace and solitude that Matthew finds is soon shaken up and he is introduced to new ways of life, to say the least.

Matthew takes the fall. He goes with it. This is the point were some viewers may struggle with the contemporary liberality of certain situations. I say embrace it. This story is touching, intimate and heart-breaking. It is another perspective, and Bertolucci’s cinema consistently shapes new ground-breaking ways of understanding different people. He, unsurprisingly, brings his colour palette to the fore; a rich blue-turquoise is blended with warm yellows that invite us into the home, which acts like a field for cultural vegetation. The camera drifts through the apartment, up the walls and through the bedroom; sharp angles or unnecessary editing rarely obstructs our eye. Every filmmaking element that Bertolluci adopts makes us fall deeper and deeper into this sweet reality. It is a masterclass in dream-making.

Matthew is able to peel a banana into three segments with the utmost precision. Theo can’t walk around the house without wearing a green jacket to cover his balls. Isabelle can’t cook and prefers to build dens instead. It is child’s play mixed with a wonderful depth of psychological trauma. Isabelle can’t fathom a life outside. Theo struggles to control his domination and jealousy. Matthew wants to make a clear step towards what the hell is actually going on here. Do we ever really get to discover this? The conclusion is much like a dream would conclude: we think we know but we never really do know.

This dream is serious. The strikes are taking a fast hold on the streets of Paris in May 1968, Isabelle is losing sense of her stability, and Matthew is vitally torn between his own vision of right and wrong. But each moment is broken down into its own, it captures an essence of human friendship, of love, and of purely letting yourself be absorbed by life. It is only here then that the true oddities of each character are able to come to light, they become part of each other’s space and try to become one. This really is an extraordinary tale, bold and noteworthy on all levels of its execution. I can’t imagine that you will ever forget watching this movie.