Bucharest ShortCut Cinefest
- Directed by Ryan Tian -
Hiding nothing with its title, Dreamland presents itself through a question: “have you ever had a dream which is hard to put into words when you wake up?” In toying with the abstract and surreal landscape of dreams, Dreamland presents a plethora of memorable aesthetic moments while providing little thematic meat. In fact, if one were to miss the film’s title or logline, listed above, chances are you’ll find yourself totally lost for its brief two-minute duration.
Of course, this sense of uncertain direction is exactly what Ryan Tian is attempting to cultivate, marking the film a resounding success if we are going off of intentionality alone. However, when paired with the tired eyes of festivalgoers, I believe Dreamland may struggle to stand out from the wash of surrounding films—mainly due to its incredible brevity.
The reason for this, for me, is because the audience are given little to latch onto visually or thematically. Sure we have one unified main character, convincingly portrayed by Sarah Jack, who guides us through multiple disconnected environment, but the cinematic devices used to (dis)connect these moments from one another can often feel scatterbrain. For example, the opening of the dream features green- screen heavy replications of our protagonist, which then devolves into unmotivated kaleidoscopes before submerging us, and our character, into a lush darkness separated by thin cloths. This latter section is the most memorable of the film, creating a true sense of being lost amid an aesthetically pleasing alien environment—with our characters’ movement even erring on the side of dance.
There is certainly something to be said about the sense of dislocation and confounding confusion which Ryan Tian cultivates within Dreamland, mirrored well by our protagonist’s constant, quiet bewilderment. However, as these feelings of unreality are somewhat carried over into the first and last scenes of diegetic reality, it feels as if the film lacks any dramatic tonal shift. Instead, it bombards us with bewilderment to the point at which we question what it is we are exactly watching—but not through positive curiosity, through dissociated, alienation.
A film like Dreamland will inherently turn its back on portions of the audience as its goals are bravely distant from those, we most commonly experience in cinema. However, due to the amalgamation of its brevity, wealth of dissociated visual styles and wayward narrative, I can’t help but feel that Dreamland is one or two iterations from being a truly outstanding piece.
In other words, Ryan Tian’s goals with this film are incredibly exciting to witness; however, that is exactly what we witness, ambition. If Tian continues to chip away at this complex aesthetic formula, mixing in more decisiveness, duration and moments of reality, the follow-ups to Dreamland will certainly be worth waiting for.