Cristina Cocco – Editor / October 3, 2021
Directed by Shirin Neshat (Silver Lion in 2009 with Women Without Men) and Shoja Azari, with the collaboration of the recently deceased Jean-Claude Carrière (historical screenwriter of Luis Buñuel), Land of Dreams was presented at the 78th Venice International Film Festival in the newly born Orizzonti Extra section; dedicated to films representing new artistic and expressive trends.
Land of Dreams is a social analysis, of a dreamy American society of Orwellian style, Fahrenheit 451. A dystopia that we discover step by step following Semin (Sheila Vand, Triple Frontier), in his journey in search of dreams.
Semin works at the fictional American Census Department with the task of collecting sensitive data and…the dreams of the people interviewed. A task that Semin performs, at least in the first part of the film, without asking questions about what can really be the basis of this filing by the government and about what its role really is, even staging, for an Arab web channel, the “collected dreams” complete with makeup and wig to look like someone who dreamed that fragment of dreamlike vision. Semin also dreams of something that continues to torment her: her dead father, a martyr, during the Iranian revolution in the late 1970s. Everything changes when Semin is sent to carry out this census of dreams in a secret Iranian colony, composed of former revolutionary fighters. To protect her in this mission, the Department supports a policeman with a rather peculiar character: Alan Villin (an extraordinary Matt Dillon, Capone), bodyguard, or cowboy Texan?! Here Semin begins to question his role and to ask new questions about his past. Soon this rather peculiar duo becomes a trio when on their way they meet Mark (an amazing William Moseley, The Royals, The Chronicles of Narnia, with which we have pleasantly chatted in Venice and which we will soon share). A young poet who declares himself immediately in love with Samin, arguing with Villin about love at first sight and lightning strikes. Mark seems to suddenly appear out of nowhere and then disappear in the same way, almost to make you think that it is an ethereal figure that wanders through distant lands reciting “If..” by Rudyard Kipling (in the interview that we will soon publish with William Moseley, why the choice fell on this piece). Alan and Mark accompany Semin in this dream reality as perfect talking crickets ready to move, each in his own way, his conscience. To underline the meeting with Jane (Isabella Rossellini, Domina), a hostess who lives the family life through a screen transmitting from a place perhaps far away.
Land of Dreams is a “festval-movie”, that is one of those films that fans cannot miss during the various film exhibitions because very unlikely, they will find a market outside of them. And, as always, they are also really worth it.
Its strong point is to be a political film without being a political film. We are faced with a government that has just closed its borders becoming, more than ever, that mirage land already dreamed of by European emigrants in the 1920s… presented in such a way that, implicitly, it is impossible not to think about the Trumpian wall with Mexico.
Not only that, we are also faced with a government that, thanks to the complicity and diligence of little soldiers like Samin, leveraging, in its case, on the gratitude towards a country that has allowed it to live the long-awaited American dream. But it is also a government that probes dreams… what is it planning?
Land of Dreams seems to be a warning, a film that aims to question and reflect the human and political soul of the viewer; especially in a difficult period in which, maybe we’re allowing someone to steal our dreams while we’re distracted by those specially designed smoke mirrors… as are those Americans interviewed by Samin, caught up in virtual reality and religious extremism to realize what is really happening to their lives and their future.
Land of Dreams is a funny and touching film, which boasts the presence of two “istrioni” such as Matt Dillon and Isabella Rossellini. Sheila Vand masterfully shoulders the weight of the entire film; while William Moseley is the perfect embodiment of the romantic hero, a rarity in today’s superficial world.
The final sequence is a circle that closes; not only in the personal story of Samin; but also in that of those who have decided to regain their dreams.
Icing on the cake, the music of Michael Brook (Brooklyn) and the original songs of Balladista aka Rebecca Comerford that gives a touch of infinity to the images on the screen… because “the border between dream and reality is very thin”.