Land of Dreams Review
Land of Dreams (2021) Film Review from the 21st Annual Tribeca Film Festival, a movie directed by Shoja Azari and Shirin Neshat, written by Shoja Azari and Jean-Claude Carriere and starring Sheila Vand, Matt Dillon, William Moseley, Isabella Rossellini, Anna Gunn, Christopher McDonald, Robin Bartlett, Joaquim de Almeida, Gaius Charles, Nicole Ansari-Cox, Rebecca Comerford, Bodhi Rader, Matthew Blood-Smyth, Augusta Allen-Jones, James Cady, Rachelle Carson-Begley and Sofia Embid.
Directors Shoja Azari and Shrin Neshat build a complex series of early scenes in the beautifully made, but very deep, new picture, Land of Dreams. Anchored by Sheila Vand’s multi-faceted performance, this picture succeeds as a whole on many levels while not always achieving guaranteed audience satisfaction in terms of its key plot revelations. Nevertheless, the performances from some of the most intriguing performers of the past twenty-five years are all fascinating with Matt Dillon coming up with his best performance since his turn in the award-winning Crash. Other fine actors on board in smaller roles include Joaquim de Almeida who was in 1994’s Clear and Present Danger.
As the film opens, we meet an Iranian woman named Simin (Vand) with a mysterious past who works for the U.S Census Bureau. One of her jobs is to ask her subjects to vividly detail their dreams. She doesn’t know why she is doing this but Simin also collects photographs of those who reveal their innermost dreams to her. Early on, a blonde woman (Anna Gunn) she interviews is posing with her husband (Christopher McDonald) for a picture but Simin won’t take the husband’s picture because he has not revealed his dreams to her. He refuses to, for whatever reason. Simin thus takes a snapshot of simply the woman by herself. Simin seems to want to emulate this woman and turns herself from a brunette to a blonde briefly and actually impersonates this lady she has just visited.
Matt Dillon portrays Alan, Simin’s rather annoying, dorky bodyguard who pops up in the movie at given intervals. Alan would be simply comic relief in a lesser movie but, as played by Dillon, Alan becomes one of the most important characters in the film. Dillon adds his signature charm to the role but it’s different from any other part he’s ever been in. This character does a lot to propel the film from certain scenes to other scenes and it’s to Dillon’s credit, he never falters in his performance. Also starring in the movie is William Moseley in a pivotal role as a poet named Mark, the man who falls in love at first sight with Simin and that’s a notion that Simin seems to believe in whether she wants to be with him or not.
Robin Bartlett serves as Mark’s mom and, in one of the most visually offbeat scenes in the picture, we see her own personal dream come to life in a nightmarish fashion. This part of the movie stands out from some other scenes as one of the most haunting sequences in the admittedly very odd at times film.
Land of Dreams is unapologetic in the way it takes shots at its small town subjects. What are these dreams and what is the real purpose behind what they provide for those asking about them? It’s a brave and unique picture and the cinematography is haunting as the beautiful scenery takes flight and sometimes takes over the screen from its stars. This is especially true in the closing scenes of the movie where photographs are laid out in a cinematic, appealing fashion.
Vand’s character is the catalyst for the action. If it weren’t for her inquisitive nature, the themes that come into fruition wouldn’t occur throughout the film. While the movie explores her family history and what has led her to the mission she embarks on in the film, it delves deep into the political climate the story finds itself immersed in.
Isabella Rossellini from Blue Velvet comes into the picture with another of the film’s most memorable performances as a loud woman named Jane who is shot in a way that suggests the movie could have been filmed during the pandemic. Rossellini is nothing short of breathtaking and it’s great to see her working again as she makes the most of her moments in this fascinating film.
Due to the film’s futuristic setting, there are probably more questions than answers which are raised during the course of the picture about why a person’s dreams could be deemed noteworthy to the degree that they would matter in terms of helping create a functioning society. The movie ends with the great, hypnotizing Cigarettes After Sex song, “Apocalypse,” which is fitting for the dreamlike state the picture presents to the audience throughout. While listening to the song again, I recalled scenes of this film in my head and concluded that they added up to an interesting whole though I may have wanted a bit more. But, is that a bad thing?
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