Greek film about The Woman Who Dreamed doesn't satisfy
Tearsheets: Museum of Fine Arts
Suggested headline: Greek film about THE WOMAN WHO DREAMED is not satisying enough
THE WOMAN WHO DREAMED
Written and directed by
Starring Myrto Paraschi and
US premiere tomorrow at 8:10 pm
at the Museum of Fine Arts.
By MANAVENDRA K. THAKUR
LIKE MANY OTHER NATIONAL cinemas, the Greek film industry is plagued by limited audiences that make it difficult for Greek-language films to be profitable at the box office. Nevertheless, Greece has been able to produce some film directors of note, and Nikos Panayotopoulos is one of them. Unfortunately, his noteworthiness would be difficult to defend in the light of his newest film, The Woman Who Dreamed, which is mostly flat and unsatisfying.
In Panayotopoulos' own words, the film is about a "woman [who] dreams continually and tells her husband about her dreams. The presence of the dreams shatters their relationship, and only a lie can restore it. The film [is] seen as a dream and life [is] seen as a film. The convention of the cinema meets that of life!" Assuming that Panayotopoulos' claim is more than a mere publicity department platitude, it would be difficult to describe his premise as anything other than fascinating and full of potential.
Unfortunately, the film fizzes out. If film is seen as a dream, and life is seen as a film, then to complete the syllogism one might conclude that life can be seen as a dream (via the medium of film). That line of thought leads directly to the type of meta-cinema practiced by the great Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky. Panayotopoulos, though, does not seem interested in exploring the possibilities that lie in that direction. As a result, he never really integrates the dreams of Anna (Myrto Paraschi) within the narrative in any interesting or meaningful way. Essentially, Anna's dreams are little more than a Hitchcockian McGuffin -- a detail which leads the plot nowhere -- for the surrounding story of Anna's relationship with her husband (Yannis Bezos).
Still, Panayotopoulos could have created an interesting film with his McGuffin. His real failure is that he didn't. The story of the crumbling relationship between Anna and her husband simply doesn't have the universal appeal that it could have had. In terms of exploring contemporary human relationships, the film cannot hope to match, for example, Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) or Ordinary People (1980). And one can forget about finding the intense psychological realism that so powerfully fueled Ingmar Bergman's Scenes from a Marriage (1973).
Given the film's overall flatness, two subplots that address some political and legal issues don't help the film very much. Cinematically speaking, the film does have some interesting moments. For example, the film both begins and ends with some serenely disturbing black-and-white shots of flat sheets of water. (Interestingly, water was one of Tarkovsky's favorite photographic subjects, and Panayotopoulos' shots are easily worthy of comparison to Tarkovsky's imagery.) The main title sequence is also notable for the intriguing animated line sketchings that flash on the screen. The acting ranges from average to to good, although the performances can hardly be described as inspired.
As with all films, it's entirely possible that some filmgoers will identify sufficiently enough with Anna that the film will work for them. If anything, though, such filmgoers will identify with the fact that Anna's relationship with her husband is breaking down rather than the dreams that ostensibly cause their relationship to unravel. Introducing dreams into a film about human relationships seems to have been, in the particular context of this film, a mistake. At best, this film can be called an experiment that failed. One can only praise Panayotopoulos for his willingness to take some risks. At the same time, however, one cannot overlook the unsatisfying nature of the film that ends up on screen.
Editor's note: The Woman Who Dreamed will be preceded at 6 pm by The Idlers of the Fertile Valley, which was made by Nikos Panayotopoulos in 1978. The film has been compared by some critics to the great Luis Bunuel classic, The Exterminating Angel.