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Although explicitly falling into the genre of the period-movie, director Ena Sendijarević’s second film starts with the explicit intent of contradicting rules and styles. Instead of the visual refinement and accuracy of the set reconstruction – however undoubtedly present – the filmmaker is interested in the development of a suspended atmosphere that makes Sweet Dreams an "open" film, a container in which to experiment on the genre itself through a mixture of radically different tones. Set in Indonesia at the beginning of the twentieth century, a country oppressed by Dutch colonialism, from the first sequences this family melodrama is imbued with a sense of ridicule capable of turning into grotesque. The physical and psychological oppression that the rich Dutch family perpetrates against the servants of the place, in particular the young and charming Siti, is also staged through moments of poisonous humor, capable in at least a couple of prying sequences resulting in the tawdry. Even when the screenplay brings history and characters into the most canonical canons of family melodrama, Sendijarević knows how to maintain – above all thanks to the symmetry of many shots – an atmosphere of poetic suspension. For once, and this is the most original side of Sweet Dreams, this suspension should not be interpreted in a positive sense. The "bubble" in which the film’s characters live represents the human and moral stasis in which they undergo a process of slow and inevitable decadence. From this point of view, the microcosm of the film metaphorically becomes the socio-political macrocosm of the time. Sendijarević's film thus evolves into a strongly "political" film, and this time in the best sense of the word, because it shows with clarity and a strong dose of irony how much the black page of European colonialism is still reflected today on a present built on the contradictions and imbalances – especially economic ones – created in the past.
Another notable point in favor of the success of Sweet Dreams is then in the excellent direction of a cast of actors who embrace with evident adherence the alienating process at the base of the operation.
Patriarch Hans Dagelet effectively spells out the mysterious power of the character, while Lisa Zweerman contributes with a performance full of panache and restrained energy. The beating heart of the film, however, is a magnetic Hayati Azis in the role of Siti, a non-professional actress who infuses her melancholic role with the seductive charm of a calm wisdom.
Sweet Dreams proves to be a feature film that has multiple levels of reading and the declared desire to challenge the viewer by proposing a melting pot of tones, variations on the theme, absolutely unpredictable food for thought. A bet that is anything but obvious, which the filmmaker wins first of all with the weapon of courage.
It is the second film by Bosnian and Dutch director Ena Sendijarević after Take Me Somewhere Nice, which won the Sarajevo Film Festival and The Special Jury Prize in Rotterdam.