The First Review

“The Dreamers” is a film about the pernicious influence of repression of infantile sexual drive on people’s psychological development. It depicts an incestuous sister/brother twins in their early twenties (Isabelle and Theo) who were not able to transgress and need a sexual ersatz-object to have some kind of sexual life. Their American friend Matthew seems fit to help the two beautiful Parisians (he has his own psychological complex which can match their sexual fixation on each other – he is psychologically split between sex and love). This quite widespread condition makes it possible for him to be sexually involved with Isabelle without being loved by her (besides, he himself is attracted to her just sexually, without any amorous complications).

According to the logic of Bertolucci’s images this whole situation is quite common for youth in Western civilization. On the one side we have those who are (like Isabelle and Theo) traumatized by their sexual desires and on the other – those who are (like Matthew) ready for sexual relations without “romantic” involvement. These are two halves of Western youth whose erotic life is a symptom of their peculiar psychological underdevelopment.

The drama of our dreamers takes place amidst the student rebellion in Paris of May ’68, and all three of them are maniacally hooked on cinema (they instinctively use cinema instead of living because they cannot be in the world spontaneously and meaningfully – they are not able to perceive the world existentially because of being psychologically split – having a shattered psyche either between life and love [Isabelle and Theo] or between sex and love [Matthew]).

“The Dreamers” is a film about the pernicious influence of repression of infantile sexual urges (incestuous desires) on person’s psychological development.

The Second Review

“The Dreamers” depicts incestuous brother/sister twins in their early twenties (Isabelle and Theo) tormented by their barren sexual fixation on each other. If they could give themselves to their desire they would go through and out of it to sexual adulthood (incestuous need makes sex more important than it really is exactly because it is forbidden). But beautiful French twins are psychologically repressed and therefore stay forever fixated on their infantile sexual obsession. So, they instinctively need a sexual ersatz-object which unexpectedly became personified, for them, by their recent American friend (Matthew) who has his own psychological complex that makes it possible for him to agree to be sexually involved with Isabelle in spite of not being loved by her and despite the fact that he himself was just attracted to her beauty and sexiness (without amorous complications).

According to Bertolucci’s images, this whole situation is quite common between young people in Western civilization, and this allows the director to make daring generalizations about why young people, with all alleged openness of democratic societies to humanistic progress, are not able to promote social change towards a more democratic life.

Futile fixation on infantile sexual object of those who (like Isabelle and Theo) are traumatized by their unconscious or conscious incestuous desires, and proclivity of many who (like Matthew) are ready to mate with a sexually attractive object without a simultaneous amorous need – are two halves of Western youth with sexual life as a symptom of emotional and psychological underdevelopment. One group needs incestuous ersatz-object and leads a pseudo-conventional sexual life without love, and both groups need to be passionately occupied with artifacts to which they are emotionally tied symbiotically, in infantile manner (consumer goods, hobby or technical toys) inside today’s omnipresent mass-cultural setting.

That’s why the drama of our “dreamers” takes place amidst the student rebellion in Paris in May 1968, and all three of them are hooked on cinema like a child on his/her toy (they use cinema instead of living; they live inside the films, their love for cinema has a symbiotic immediacy that is characteristic of consumerist tie between subject and things he/she possesses or images or ideas he/she bonds with). Repressed incestuous object (Theo) in Isabelle’s life returns/reincarnates as incestuous ersatz-object (Matthew) and as incestuous artifacts (cinema for all three main characters).

The film includes a lot of sexual action and multifaceted (and multi-angled) nudity, but everything in it is colored by Bertolucci’s sadness about the lost existential direction of our civilization. Does he love young people? He is worried about their general sensibility distorted by psychological repressiveness and ideological and consumerist predatoriness of today’s society.

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Isabelle and Matthew’s beautiful but sterile erotic games

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Isabelle and Theo, without fully satisfying their present amorous needs, look at their future destiny

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Matthew from San Diego, like a sculptural artifact is framed by the antique mirror and doesn’t know what will happen with him in Paris.

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To Matthew’s incredible luck, Isabelle and Theo’s father-the poet misunderstood his confusion and worries (he took them for his wisdom) and didactically made (from) him an example for his children

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Young people indulge in innocent sexual games

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Well, it looks like the time for resolution of our heroes’ eccentric triangle is nearing

BerTheDreamers The desperate twins decided to use Matthew as a sexual ersatz object

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What could be the culmination of love becomes a technical operation

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Yes, it happened – Isabelle lost her virginity, without love

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Theo with his unrealizable (incestuous) love, and Matthew as Isabelle’s sexual surrogate – a shaky basis for real friendship

Posted on Nov, 3 2017 – The Role Of “Bizarre” Visual Images As An Intellectual Stimulation Of The Film-viewers – From Bernardo Bertolucci’s “The Dreamers” (2003) by Acting-Out Politics

Posted Sep 28 2011 – Bernardo Bertolucci’s “The Dreamers” (2003) – Why Contrary to Herbert Marcuse’s Hope, Young People Are Not Able to Change Society by Acting-Out Politics