The Dead Don't Dream
13 Dec 2021
Alexandra Mayrhofer, Carolina Libanori, Lidia Oliveira
The Dead Don’t Dream is a short oddity from director Eduardo Justus in which a dying man’s choices, passions and fantasies in his life play out in his final dreams. The peculiar film is impressively artistic, but lacks a real emotional punch beyond this.
The story plays out in the lucid dreams of a mysterious figure known as ‘The Aviator’ (Eduardo Justus) who is confronted with visions of past lovers – such as Clarice (Alexandra Mayrhofer) and Claudia (Lidia Oliveira) – who manifest representations of his values in life. Their bizarre behaviour is an act which emanates from The Aviator’s internal interpretation of his choices and mistakes.
As an artistic and experimental piece, The Dead Don’t Dream is an accomplished and well-directed film which is expressive and daring, though fails to land a real emotional connection with its audience.
Eduardo Justus smartly allows his performers to bring energy and life to their roles – with Alexandra Mayrhofer a particular highlight – whilst keeping the overall plot and direction of the story on course. The theme of choices in life, and how they impact those we come across, remains prominent throughout the film’s brief runtime and is apparent despite a high-levels of symbolic and metaphorical theatrics.
Mayrhofer’s monologue is the film’s highlight, and her character Clarice is a complex, scorned yet yearning lover who dissects The Aviator’s infidelities, and the impact it has had on others, with precision accuracy. Mayrhofer’s emotiveness brings a remarkable honesty to Clarice’s rant – and prevent it from ever coming across as purely vengeful. The film is largely centred around Clarice, but the strength of the performance gives good reasons as to why.
The film however does lack an emotional punch to it outside of the Clarice character, and fails to really establish much of a connection between the remaining characters. It’s strange that Justus seems to neglect The Aviator’s role, given that we are supposedly experiencing the story through his perception – and the rest of the women in the cast are given markedly less to do than Mayrhofer. It would have been welcome to have insight into the wider consequences of the Aviator’s actions – even through his own perceptions. The performative roles that Carolina Libanori and Lidia Oliveira play fail to demonstrate this in the intended manner.
The film also suffers at points from its lower budget, with unintentional shaky-cam an unwelcome distraction in moments, and unacceptably poor image quality over a scene involving the filling-up of a sink. Quite whether this is some kind of meta-effect in uncertain, though if it is, it has certainly gone over this reviewer’s head. Though a relatively minor complaint, it does degrade the rest of the film.
There are interesting ideas in The Dead Don’t Dream, which are executed with mixed success. The film is worth checking out for Alexandra Mayrhofer’s performance alone, but outside of this there is a sense that the film misses an extra spark to elevate it above other experimental shorts.