One of the most unique and inimitable inclusions at this year’s London Film Festival, Jaime Rosales’ The Dream and the Silence (Sueño y Silencio, 2012) is a fascinatingly opaque examination of grief on a tight knit family dynamic. A teacher and her architect husband live a serene life with their two young daughters. However, when a terrible accident happens the family is torn apart, with the husband’s newly diagnosed memory-loss only adding to the magnitude of grief felt by the remaining distraught family members.
Shot in 35mm on hard-grain black and white film stock (with the exception of two scenes filmed in colour – for no conceivable reason) and using non-professional actors working from a heavily improvised script, The Dream and the Silence performs under a very strict, yet strangely liberating set of rules which culminates in an incredibly realistic portrait of grief on a family, albeit from an unconventionally detached viewpoint. Almost impenetrable, this collection of interwoven vignettes slowly reveals a collage of narrative strands that build into a beautifully vague exploration of maternal grief.
Contemplative and gruellingly languid, the film’s use of static camera shots keeps the focus narrow, often fixing our attention away from the action, observing events in a passive and detached manner. This sterile, yet incredibly effective approach forces the viewer to take a far more meditative attitude to the subject matter – only emphasised by the film’s tendency to mute sound entirely, like splicing this family drama with snippets of time for reflective thinking.
The Dream and the Silence’s deliberate non-style approach is almost as significant as the actions which unfold. Combined with the improvised dialogue (Rosales apparently only gave the actors brief descriptions of the scenes, moments before filming, whilst also shooting every scene in one take) and you have a deeply realistic and truthful presentation of a family dealing with loss.
A mysterious, emotionally devastating and incredibly exhausting experience (both figuratively and literally), Jaime Rosales’ The Dream and the Silence is a tremendous – if not a little too dramatically honest for some audiences – depiction of grief and loss.
The 56th BFI London Film Festival runs from 10-21 October. For more of our LFF coverage, simply follow this link.