The quotidian dealings of a Spanish family in Paris are rudely thrown off balance by a fatal offscreen accident.
The quotidian dealings of a Spanish family in Paris are rudely thrown off balance by a fatal offscreen accident, in “The Dream and the Silence,” another oblique and demanding but ultimately rewarding work from Spanish scribe-helmer Jaime Rosales (“Solitary Fragment,” “Bullet in the Head”). Only after death makes an appearance some 40 minutes in do the pic’s puzzle pieces slowly start to fall into place in this austere, funereally black-and-white depiction of a household in unexpected mourning. Probably too rarefied for commercial release beyond Spain, France and cinematheques, pic should cause some noise at fests.
Rejecting the meticulous planning of every detail he exhibited in his previous features, Rosales here goes in the opposite direction by working without a screenplay and only a single camera and take per scene. Tellingly, the result doesn’t feel all that different from Rosales’s previous work, suggesting the helmer’s m.o. takes a back seat to his auteurist sensibilities and filmmaking instincts.
The first reels look at the daily routines of architect Oriol (Oriol Rosello), who works in an English-language environment; Yolanda (Yolanda Galocha), a Spanish teacher at a French-language school; and the couple’s young daughters, Alba (Alba Ros Montet) and Celia (Celia Correas). Using a syncopated approach to storytelling and editing, all information and details about the family — or the fact they even are a family — emerge almost by chance from short, rarely directly connected scenes that are only held together by their focus on the mundane everyday tasks the protags perform.
Their lives receive a major blow after an accident occurs — it’s suggested much later it was probably a car crash — that leaves Oriol with a fractured nose and Celia dead. But this too, is something that emerges only after auds have witnessed Yolanda break down while seated between two ladies dressed in black, and a funeral has taken place at a cemetery in a mesmerizing, minutes-long fixed shot.
In all his films, Rosales removes the precedence narrative is often given when shaping the work, thus allowing room for other things, first among them the possibility to wander freely through the images and contemplate the connections that might exist between them. For those along for the ride, “Dream” offers another bleak if not hopeless view of daily lives ruptured by an unexpected and violent event. While the pic is perhaps not on par with “Solitary Fragments,” it is also much smaller in scope.
Of particular note is Oriol’s loss of memory after the accident, which resonates with the structure of the film itself in that he forges ahead in his life without being able to connect all the dots, much like the state the audience is in throughout the pic. Acting by non-pros, who improvised the dialogue, is impressively down-to-earth for tackling such a sensitive subject as mourning.
Rather than crispy black-and-white, Oscar Duran’s grainy and slightly dirty 35mm cinematography has the slightest sepia tinge. Characters in shots in the early going are positioned in front of walls that run parallel to the screen, giving the fixed images a boxed-in feeling, despite the use of widescreen. Figures are sometimes partially cut off at the image edge or entirely offscreen (but heard), suggesting no single frame can capture what is happening entirely. A few strategically placed camera movements and handheld shots, as well as the unexpected use of color, take auds and characters beyond the limits of the fixed picture frame and the film’s black-and-white, helping to further untangle the puzzle of these characters’ lives.
Opening and closing overhead shots of painter Miquel Barcelo (also seen in two recent films by San Sebastian winner Isaki Lacuesta) offer enigmatic bookends.