Dreams are famously rather nebulous and unfathomable things. Their elusive nature makes them objects of fascination, readily able to be picked apart in our great search for meaning. Dreams have proven to be fertile ground in cinema that film, both celluloid and digital, can possibly open up. Dream Agency unsurprisingly concerns itself with dreams in its content, though it never breaks from a somewhat flat naturalism. Anybody seeking out something akin to Lynch or Buñuel will be disappointed.
We begin with a rather tantalising idea – what if you could recreate your dreams? We’ve surely all had dreams that have stuck with us, that we wish we could return to; wouldn’t it be nice to relive them in reality? It’s not exactly a new concept, but it is an interesting one and it does afford the opportunity to have some rather evocative shots of Jersey’s coast as our protagonist Janet relives a recurring dream she has had. She has hired a company (the titular agency) to recreate the dream for her with as much detail as possible.
The effect is striking, with the stilted play-acting suggesting layers of fiction and reality that have fascinating possibilities. It’s a genuine shame that these go unexplored, with the film instead foregrounding Janet’s poorly realised infatuation with one of the actors in the company and her activities in joining the group.
This does yield some amusing scenes of dream reconstruction, but soon thereafter it becomes clear that there’s no real vision (perhaps as a result of the ultra-collaborative nature of the filmmaking) and it is thin material for a feature. For a certain kind of cinephile it may be hard not to wish this had been made by filmmakers like Spike Jonze and Charlie Kaufman, and I must confess that I couldn’t help but wonder what this could have been like in their hands. The calm and understated approach the filmmakers took does have its merits, but when quietness and placidity seems to be the fashion de rigueur in indie cinema at the moment, it’s sad to see such promising material wasted on something so aesthetically timid. Dream Agency is by no means a bad film, but it’s just good enough to make you wish it were better. As it is, it pulls its punches when it should have left a bite.
Dream Agency had its premiere on August 17th at the Edinburgh International Film Festival.
Image credit: courtesy of EIFF Press Team, provided to The Student as press material.