The Dream and the Silence: Cannes Review
Spanish director Jaime Rosales' black and white film explores the loss of a child and its devastating effect on a young mother.
The loss of a child and its devastating effect on a young mother are painstakingly dissected in The Dream and the Silence, an art film shot in uncompromising black and white that keeps the audience at a cold arm’s length, despite its potentially moving subject. Following his much-admired The Hours of the Day about a serial killer and two tales involving the victims of Basque terrorism, Bullet in the Head and Solitary Fragments, Spanish director Jaime Rosales continues his exploration of the way unexpected acts of violence brutally alter the course of human lives. This film, like its predecessors not a taste for the many, should find much the same committed supporters and in any case will be difficult to see outside a festival context.
Opening and closing shots of an artist at work sets the grim tone, as he expertly sketches monstrous lizards hanging from a series of crosses. This scene rhymes with a man (Oriol Rosello) reading a children’s picture book to his two young daughters. That leads to the girls’ happy game-playing and then to mother Yolanda’s (Yolanda Galocha) work as a schoolteacher, and his job as an architect. Everything is shot preferably in ill-lit rooms, at the end of hallways and through half-open doors, usually in distanced long shot. A visit to Oriol’s parents’ country home introduces a talkative grandmother (Laura Latorre) whose restless banter contrasts with her husband’s (Jaume Terradas) dignified silence. For a long time nothing much is happening and the feeling of directorial self-indulgence is tangible.
The accident that marks the turning point in the story takes place off-screen, denoted simply as sunlight flashing off the front window of a car. Rosales’ and Enric Rufus’ screenplay maddeningly refuses to explain what happened, why Yolanda and her daughter Alba are tensely waiting in the hospital, or even who is being buried in the cemetery. Counting the characters, one can narrow down the possibilities; meanwhile the audience’s emotional involvement in the tragedy is totally and deliberately undercut.
Recovering from his injuries, Oriol can’t remember the accident. Worse, he can’t remember his dead child, leaving Yolanda in an atrocious limbo of lonely mourning. (The audience, too, will have trouble remembering which of the barely seen daughters is no longer present.) The rest of the film mostly follows her pain as she tries to return to her job while coming to terms with grief. She refuses to talk it through with her husband, becoming sarcastic and bitter when he tries to get through to her, as though she blamed him but won’t say it.
It’s a simple story shot in a complex, often frustrating way. Even the stony naturalistic acting refuses to help pull viewers in. Sometimes cinematographer Oscar Duran’s black and white images are beautiful to watch, as in a rare tracking shot through a sunny park full of families and kids playing. But no easy solutions are offered, and the viewer steps away with fiercely little comfort, particularly when those crosses appear again on the artist’s canvas.
Venue: Cannes Film Festival (Directors Fortnight), May 22, 2012.
Production companies: Fresdeval Films, Wanda Vision, Les Productions de Balthazar
Cast: Oriol Roselló, Yolanda Galocha, Alba Ros Monter, Celia Correas, Jaume Terradas, Laura Latorre
Director: Jaime Rosales
Screenwriters: Jaime Rosales, Enric Rufas
Producers: Jaime Rosales, José Marìa Morales, Jerome Dopffer
Director of photography: Óscar Durán
Production Designer: Thomas Grezaut
Editor: Nino Martínez Sosa
Sales Agent: The Match Factory
No rating; 120 minutes.