Empathy vs demonstration. The Dreamers has this problem in spades. Let me explain. Suppose you are making a film about the boredom of small town life. Do you just show said boredom in a detached fashion, or do you go further. Do you risk your audience empathising with your characters too, you literally expeirence the boredom too. Perhaps more powerful, but who wants to see a boring film.

Empathy is something a lot of films strive for after all. The horror movie does not work unless we catch a degree of the terror off of the dumbass teenages who just split up. And the cheap’n’nasty current vogue for jerky and impossible to work out what is going on war choreography is all about promoting the chaos of war*. But as noted above, the empathy of boredom is a tricky one to master. Bernado Bertolucci comes near it in The Dreamers and does not quite succeed.

Problem is the Dreamers is set in Paris ’68. An American student, and two nicely rich and bohemian young twins strike up a friendship based on cinema and sex. There are some nice pieces about cinephilia here, reproducing the Louvre race in Bande A Part, death is Scarface. But all the while, as their sexual experimentation gets more daring, there is a revolution going on outside the window. A revolution we barely get to see because we stick with the dramers, moping about naked in berdrooms and bathrooms. The point is that this kids talk revolution, but don’t do revolution. The film is chastizing their non-involvement, and then questions their final embroilment. But the self-obsessed, self-indulgent ideals of the kids is also unfortunately the pattern of the film. I want to see outside that window, even if they don’t. And so in being force to empathise with the kids, I end up being more annoyed by them than anything else.

This is not helped by the fact that when we finally get some action, the film ends. Pah! I guess a bit like a dream. Empathy again.

*And not about saving money, or being filmed by technical incompentents.