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Clarum Somnium

average rating is 3 out of 5


James Learoyd


Posted on:

Feb 13, 2024

Film Reviews
Clarum Somnium
Directed by:
Alexandre David Lejuez
Written by:
Alexandre David Lejuez
Eva Langlet

Alluring yet challenging, Clarum Somnium (2023) is an experimental short. Described, by the filmmakers, as “The purification of a mysterious girl, between dream and reality”, the piece will not be for everybody (what is?), but this cerebral experience holds plenty of original visual and auditory ideas to admire. Over the course of ten minutes, we’re shown a woman in a shower, city structures, and finally the natural world. Having these elements complement each other in unusual ways is artistically ambitious and certainly worth analysing; unfortunately, the film can risk feeling static or repetitive... but then again, it must not be viewed through linear story conventions as the filmmaker has chosen to disregard narrative. So, we must instead consider the concepts at play.


Thematically, we’re working in vague but interesting territory. One hypothesises that the film’s juxtaposition of images – between the dreamlike fluidity of the streetlamps / buildings and the more strange, visceral nature of the woman washing her hair – is there to perhaps encourage the viewer to either consider any similarities, or, on the other hand, its extreme differences. The frequent use of dissolve transitions suggests that there might be a flowing, universal connection; however, it may be more stimulating to engage with the images’ contrast... for instance, what clashing textures can be identified? - from interior to exterior, should we feel the warm and cold; wet and dry? Then again, should a contrast be found between any emotions present?


The singular character in the film does not appear to be in a state of ease -- more a kind of numbness has taken hold of her, appearing dazed; this is an intense, potent state of being, and there’s a vulnerability to the situation she’s in. The opposite then can be found in the other images: without any character, focus, or emotional messaging, you’re urged to allow the shapeless, indistinct beams of light to flow past you, for the spectator is placed in a vehicle – a liminal space. Interestingly, the final images are not of a person, or of the urban environment previously displayed... trees and nature are what the filmmaker chooses to conclude with. An audience may see this as symbolising hope or being indicative of a release from some form of darkness.


To be candid, it’s incredibly challenging to write concisely regarding what a film like Clarum Somnium is ‘about’, but what does help any viewer along the way is the music included: it’s a great way to gage the mood of a surrealist piece if all else fails, and thankfully this film provides a pleasantly mystical ambiance to what we’re seeing. The instrumental soundscape is incredibly immersive and is of a high professional quality, allowing the spectator to merge what they’re seeing with what they’re hearing to form something ever more abstract. One could argue that this works particularly well when the shots are at their most unusual – images depicting the streets upside down, throwing the world of the short into chaos, forcing us to simply admire the shapes and respond to the meditative score.


Director Alexandre David Lejuez is using film as a canvas on which to experiment and express that which is impossible to capture through linear storytelling. For an audience, it’s a puzzle they’ve been given: one can attempt to solve the enigma or, alternatively, engage with the piece via a purely subconscious plane of thought... but some may not wish to do either. The short is inventive and thoughtful, but ideally should pack a bigger punch, daring to be more provocative and less repetitive. But overall, Clarum Somnium displays enough originality and artistry to leave you wondering what else the filmmaker has up their sleeve.

About the Film Critic
James Learoyd
James Learoyd
Short Film
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