A Two Continents Prods. Production, in association with Kinema Films de Mexico, (International sales: Diorama, Madrid.) Produced by Maite Arango, Inigo Vallejo-Nagera. Executive producer, Jose Ludlow D.
Directed by Inigo Vallejo-Nagera. Screenplay, Vallejo-Nagera, Tim Sexton. Camera (color), Flavio Martinez Labiano; editor, Carlos Bolado; music, Suso Saiz; production design, Marcos Lutyens; costume design, Nancy Romero; associate producer, Pedro Barroeta. Reviewed at San Sebastian Festival (Made in Spain), Sept. 27, 1996. Running time: 83 MIN.
Sofia Gabriela Roel Nicolas Bruno Bichir Caronte Damian Alcazar Solita Socorro Avelar
Magical realist to a fault, fascinating and visually magnificent, “Where Dreams Are Born and Die” is an intelligent and risky homage to the power of the imagination which seduces with its dreamy power. But pic’s largely impenetrable symbolism is likely to prevent recognition of its New Age message beyond the festival circuit, or, at best, arthouses.
Sexy Mexican computer specialist Sofia (Gabriela Roel) is visited at work by curly-haired, hippie botanist Nicolas (Bruno Bichir). When he leaves, the computer system has been invaded by a virus. Something mystical about Nicolas causes Sofia to follow him into a nearby botanical gardens, where she finds him standing in a pool of water. Playfully, they fight: Sofia punches him and he falls over.
Back at her apartment to dry off, Nicolas talks to Sofia’s plants and explains that a mysterious flower exists that contains the secret of the gods. Later, out driving, they crash the car. When Sofia awakes, they crash the car. When Sofia awakes, the doctors tell her that there was nobody else in the car with her, and nobody else in the car with her, and nobody else seems to remember Nicolas, either. When she receives a telegram from him, Sofia moves into the mystical wilderness of Mexico in pursuit. A blind man who spends his time watching TV sends her to a mountain town called E1 Real, where dream logic — the logic of an indigenous culture that consumes large amounts of peyote — takes over.
Pic is shot through with powerful, haunting images: a graphically shot cockfight, a dog that doesn’t bleed when shot because it’s a robot, a snake curling itself slowly over Sofia’s sleeping body, incredible Sierra Madre landscapes that helmer Inigo Vallejo-Nagera has reanimated with the aid of computers, and a dream sequence in which Sofia opens a huge fish on wheels and sees her own dead body inside. Shots of Mexican village life, too, bring that country’s fabled surreal quality to life.
Film is a visual treat from a lenser whose track record includes Alex de la lglesia’s “Day of the Beast” and an apprenticeship with Vittorio Storario, and a helmer who’s been an assistant director to both Steven Spielberg and Paul Verhoeven. But in a pic where anything can happen there can be no dramatic tension, and character definition is lost.
Toward the end, the plot becomes merely a peg on which to hang more images. The hard-to-grasp message — that indigenous cultures can see things which Westerners are still struggling to see through technology — is too broad to have much impact. In the end, Vallejo-Nagera has been seduced by his own visual imagination at the cost of his meaning.