Dir: Jamie Rosales. Spain-France. 2012. 110mins

Sound and the Silence

Spanish director Jamie Rosales is determined to let the cards fall as they may in The Dream And The Silence (Sueno y silencio)- his actors improvise every scene, he only shoots one take, he’s opted for black-and-white film stock using available light, etc. These “liberating” rules can prove to be just as much of a cage as any other cinematic convention, however, and despite moments of raw power, The Dream And The Silence struggles to break out of its aesthetic to make a sustained connection with the audience.

The Dream And The Silence’s deliberate non-style is as much a part of this film as anyone in it.

There is much to admire in Rosales’ (The Hours of the Day, La Soledad) uncompromising, Ozu-influenced worldview. A total lack of expository dialogue, for example, puts the viewer properly and uncomfortably in the right place as an uninvited interloper on a family tragedy (it takes almost an hour to be fully certain of events, which have a tendency to jump, and relationships, which are never explained).

And stylistically, Rosales sticks firmly to shooting on 35mm black-and-white film stock using available light and ambient sound with the exception of two short bursts of colour. The results aren’t particularly pretty, with bleached-out foregrounds and unsatisfying depth-of-field. Actors wander off camera and their disembodied voices carry on with the scene. The camera views them straight-on

It’s interesting that the story can still emerge from these self-imposed bonds to flash moments of truth and power, but Rosales’ rigor could deter mainstream and even arthouse audiences, marking this as a festival and specialty treat. Galleries may also take note: Rosales collaborated with one of Spain’s greatest living artists, Miquel Barcelo, on The Dream And The Silence (the artist is shown in a brief prologue and epilogue and his work can be spotted hanging in scenes). Barcelo’s work with Inaki Lacuestra on the equally experimental The Double Steps won the top prize at San Sebastian last year.

The success of The Dream And The Silence depends on how much the viewer wants to fight to be involved in it - Rosales’ fragmentary narrative isn’t particularly welcoming to a casual approach. Oriol (Oriol Rosello) and Yolanda (Yolanda Galocha) work as an architect and Spanish teacher respectively in Paris where they enjoy a close family relationship with their two young daughters, Alba (Alba Rose Montet) and Celia (Celia Correas).

Oriol, who is under pressure at work from his British boss, takes Celia for a holiday in Spain’s Delta del Ebro, a national park in Tarragona where her grandparents, Jaume and Laura (Jaume Terradas and Laura Latorre) live. There’s a terrible accident.

Rosales’ film gathers power as individual family members confront what has happened and their resulting grief. The scenes are improvised by the actors and there’s a great sense of truth in monologues dealing with loss. In the closing sequences in particular, Rosales’ stylistic choices finally knit together to make a retrospectively strong case for his approach.

The Dream And The Silence’s deliberate non-style is as much a part of this film as anyone in it, and cinematographer Oscar Duran must have worked under severe pressure to produce this picture. One can’t help but wonder whether some of the editing choices (there are varying levels of quality) came about because of lack of alternate material. Whatever the case, The Dream and the Silence draws further attention to the new wave of uncompromising film-making which seems to be emerging from Catalunya at the moment.

Production companies: Fresdeval Films, Wanda Vision, Balthazar

International sales: The Match Factory, www.the-match-factory.com

Producers: Jaime Rosales, Jose Maria Morales, Jerome Dopffer

Screenplay: Jaime Rosales, Enric Rufas

Cinematography: Oscar Duran

Editor: Nino Martinez Sosa

Main cast: Yolanda Galocha, Oriol Rosello, Jaume Terradas, Laura Latorre, Alba Ros Montet, Celia Correas