1st Jul 2010
Théo and Isa from The Dreamers
With Gilbert Adair‘s The Dreamers (first published as The Holy Innocents in 1988), I broke my golden rule of seeing the film before I read the book. As it was, I was completely captivated by Bernado Bertolucci‘s 2003 cinematic adaptation. Set in Paris during the turbulent spring months of 1968, the story centres around incestuous teenage cinephile twins Théo and Isabelle, and an American student named Matthew, who they befriend and soon invite to stay with them when their parents go away.
Obsessive cinema-goers, the trio visit the iconic Cinémathèque Française every night until the controversial “Langlois affair” forces the cinema to close. Without their nighty cinematic fix, the three of them withdraw into their own private world, obsessively indulging in made-up games and rituals with increasingly self-destructive sexual forfeits. But eventually, the real world forces its way into their hermetically-sealed apartment, and they take to the Parisian streets, which during the May ’68 riots were a chaotic, violent battlefield.
The film is visually gorgeous, with a soundtrack to match, and having loved Gilbert Adair’s other novels, I knew the book would not disappoint. Rich, evocative, and teeming with innovative visual imagery, I find something new in it every time I re-read. And although the character of Matthew might win over more than his fair share of cooing, sighing fangirls with Michael Pitt‘s big blue eyes and innocent baby-face, it was the twins who intrigued me when I first watched the film.
Théo, played to perfection by Louis Garrel (who completely encapsulates the book’s description that “under his jumble-sale clothes one imagined delicately chiselled anklebones and subtle, shark’s fin shoulder-blades”), spends most of the film naked except for a green velvet blazer, “resembling, with his alarming eyes and tousled mop of hair, a transvestite whose wig has just been snatched off.” Eva Green‘s Isabelle is somewhat more enigmatic, but still somehow conveys both the childish, whimsical and dark, destructive sides which combine to make her character in both the book and the film so fascinating. In her introduction in the book, she is wearing a cloche hat and fox boa “which, every five minutes or so she would sling over her shoulder as negligently as a prizefighter’s towel.” Under the guise of migraines and insomnia, she hoards sleeping pills as a “return ticket” in case she decides to commit suicide.
Both the book and the film have been criticised by some for their naive and nostalgic rendition of youthful idealism. But for me, a self-confessed romantic infatuated by innocence and idealism in all its forms (especially when complemented by a darker counterpart), it was wonderful. The book is on Amazon for £4.99, while the film is £3.57.
(Image of Théo and Isabelle from the film adaptation of The Dreamers, with Michael Pitt as Matthew in the middle)
Post by Jane Bradley