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Movie Reviews

The Dreamlife Of Angels  

Here is a film which offers one of the more stranger friendships I've ever seen. In this case, we have two female protagonists; one is a homeless vagabond of sorts who tries too hard to reach out to those in need, while the other one is a seemingly normal individual who turns out to be somewhat of a masochist, so much so that it makes the weird girl seem normal. That's the central relationship in The DreamLife of Angels, a dour film about the effects of two people on each other's lives. Ida shows up one day at a town somewhere in France, looking for a friend who, when she shows up to his house, has apparently disappeared. The girl is now homeless, but not defeated, and manages to get herself a job at a fabrics company, even though she plainly does not know how to sew. While there, she meets Marie, a pretty young thing who also has the questionable attribute of being apathetic. The two end up ditching their jobs, and Ida stays with Marie at an apartment she is house-sitting. The owner and her daughter were both in a car accident, the mother was killed, and the daughter remains in a coma.

The two have some rather odd adventures. Two bouncers they meet while trying to enter a concert for free become their boyfriends, even though Marie behaves as if she doesn't care, or is even repulsed, about this overweight man, and is generally hostile about both of them from the start. On the job front, Ida actually looks for work, any work, while Marie mopes around, complaining that Ida`s choice of work is degrading. Later on, Marie meets up with a rich jerk whose car window she accidentally smashed as she and Ida goofed off one day. They have a relationship, if you can call a situation where he sexually degrades her and plays with her emotions a relationship. Marie does not leave him, however, but becomes insanely obsessed with him, even to the point of beating up a woman who she has seen cavorting with the man. The friendship between her and Ida become very strained, because it is clear to Ida, and to us, that Marie is deeply disturbed; at the very least, Marie is shallow and stuck-up to the point of no return.

Certainly, people who by nature believe themselves to be of the mainstream will, at first glance, target Ida as the strange one and Marie as the normal one. In appearance, Marie is the "pretty" one, while Ida is the tomboy, the one who is out of the loop when it comes to today's fashions. Marie seems to have the capacity for the regular social and night life; if we didn`t see how the rich guy treated her, we would say that she is like other girls who have frivolous relationships with more than one person. Ida, on the other hand, is an overly sensitive girl who goes so far as to visit the girl, a total stranger, in the coma. How uncool! But as the film progresses it is difficult to continue claiming that Marie is normal.... the most disturbing element of the film is when she suddenly becomes obsessed with the idiot rich guy. For one thing, she is taken unexpectedly to a hotel and is forced to have sex with this guy, in scenes that had to be cut so the film could get its R rating, and yet..... she gets all mental from seeing him with another woman, and when he doesn't call or is heard from for days. Why?? There is nothing healthy about this relationship, and their encounters are basically rape as far as I'm concerned. I suppose she must believe she has to be with a guy like this, because he looks good, and is young (unlike the fat bouncer, who seems ten or fifteen years older), drives a nice car, and has lots of money and esteem, so by losing him, she has lost her chance at a fairytale ending.

She sees herself as society wants her to be seen, and her need to be seen this way slowly eats away at her sanity, and her life. Marie needs to justify this behavior by becoming the snob, putting people down for having the jobs they do and living the way they do, while at the same time, proving to us that her life is a complete sham. Ida, on the other hand, is just being herself, relying on her own resources, doing what she wants to do, regardless of some unwritten social code. She doesn't care if she has to take some dumb job to make ends meet, she doesn't care if she is dating a mere bouncer. She has a very positive attitude.

While I was watching the second half of this movie, I had some rather unsettling thoughts pertaining to my own life. These thoughts are probably inappropriate to mention in a crappy film review, but they were there all the same. Right now, I have to deal with someone who suddenly is behaving more like a snob than usual. She was a good friend, maybe she still will be.... but at this moment, she is the one who acts as if she is the centre of the world, while, just like Marie, she rails on about the pointlessness of so-called degrading work, as if most people have a choice in the matter. She also likes to judge certain types of people harshly and quickly, even if she has never even met them face to face. Right now, she believes that a friend I met from my apparently degrading job is a witch. Why? Because she likes comic books and role-playing games.... weird, maybe, but a member of the occult?!? I think that there is something else happening here. In any case, there is a lot of insecurity on the part of my friend, although she would never admit to that. This is basically what goes on between Ida and Marie. Ida tells her what her problem is, but she does not believe it, and goes on the defensive, much like what happens whenever I say anything which hits a little too close for my friend's liking. And in both cases, I think, their need to appear superior to the world is more important than being able to feel good about and to accept themselves.

So I suppose I am like Ida when it comes to my friend, since I'm the one that wants to change her, to make her see that some of what she does is hurting her. But the message seems to be that no matter what people like Ida do to try to help others, it is of no use, if the other person is unable or unwilling to change.

The most extreme case of this is when Ida goes to the hospital to visit the girl in the coma. In a sense, Ida takes her selfless needs to absurd lengths, because not only is she visiting a girl who she cannot communicate properly to, but she is visiting a total stranger, and is prying into her life in a vain attempt to get the girl to wake up. What Ida is doing is possibly inappropriate, but certainly heartfelt, and there is something oddly touching about the shot in which she continues the journal entries for the sleeping girl. One's final impression of Ida is that she is a caring individual, and certainly a better friend than Marie deserves to have.

Overall, the film is rather slow and dry, and not as overpowering as I had thought it would be. Basically, it's your typical French film, a deep, cerebral glimpse into human nature, with an ending that does not bring up happy feelings, as many of these films generally do. Still, in my quest to discover strange and interesting films, The DreamLife of Angels is one of many cool things that I`ve found in my journey.

David Macdonald

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