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The Dreamers (film)

The Dreamers
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Bernardo Bertolucci
Produced by Jeremy Thomas
Screenplay by Gilbert Adair
Based on The Holy Innocents 
by Gilbert Adair
Starring Michael Pitt
Eva Green
Louis Garrel
Music by (see Music and soundtrack)
Cinematography Fabio Cianchetti
Edited by Jacopo Quadri
Recorded Picture Company
Peninsula Films
Distributed by TFM Distribution (France)
Medusa Distribuzione (Italy)
Fox Searchlight Pictures
Release dates
  • 10 October 2003 (2003-10-10) (Italy)
  • 10 December 2003 (2003-12-10) (France)
  • 6 February 2004 (2004-02-06)
Running time
115 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Budget $15 million[1]
Box office $15,121,165[1]

The Dreamers is a 2003 romantic drama film directed by Bernardo Bertolucci. The screenplay is by Gilbert Adair, based on his own novel The Holy Innocents. An international co-production by companies from France, the United Kingdom, and Italy, the film tells the story of an American university student in Paris who, after meeting a peculiar brother and sister who are fellow film enthusiasts, becomes entangled in an erotic conflict. It is set against the backdrop of the 1968 Paris student riots. The film makes several references to various movies of classical and New Wave cinema, incorporating clips from films that are often imitated by the actors in particular scenes.

There are two versions: an uncut NC-17-rated version, and an R-rated version that is about three minutes shorter.

The primary language spoken in the film is English, though French and English are spoken interchangeably throughout.


  • Plot 1
  • Cast 2
  • Production 3
    • Rating 3.1
  • Reception 4
  • Music and soundtrack 5
  • Home media 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9


Matthew (Michael Pitt) is an American exchange student who has come to Paris to study French. While at the Cinémathèque Française protesting the firing of Henri Langlois, he meets the free-spirited twins Théo (Louis Garrel) and Isabelle (Eva Green). The three bond over a shared love of film.

After dinner with their parents (Anna Chancellor and Robin Renucci), Théo and Isabelle offer Matthew the chance to stay with them while their parents are on a trip. Matthew accepts, considering them his first French friends.

Matthew soon becomes suspicious of their relationship after seeing them sleeping nude together; he soon discovers that they accept nudity and sexuality liberally (which one reviewer described as "incestuous in all but the most technical sense"[2]). After Théo loses at a trivia game, Isabelle sentences him to masturbate to a Marlene Dietrich poster in front of them. After Matthew loses at another game, he is forced to take Isabelle's virginity. The two then become lovers.

Matthew begins to accept Théo and Isabelle's sexuality and his time living with them soon becomes idyllic. The three break the world record for running through the Louvre, and Matthew and Théo engage in playful arguments about Charles Chaplin and Buster Keaton, Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix, as well as the subject of Maoism, which Théo fervently believes in. Matthew and Isabelle also continue their relationship, although Matthew attempts to take her on regular dates, which she has not experienced before.

One night, while the three are sleeping naked together in the living room, Théo and Isabelle's parents arrive to leave a cheque for groceries. They are startled and disturbed by what they find. After they leave, Isabelle wakes up and discovers the cheque, realizing that their parents have found them. Wordlessly, she attaches a hose to the gas outlet and lies back down with Théo and Matthew, attempting to commit suicide. After a few moments, however, they are woken by a brick being hurled through the window; they discover hundreds of students rioting in the streets. Théo is overjoyed, but Matthew attempts to argue that the riots have no meaning. As a result, he is shunned by Théo and Isabelle, who rush to join the protesters.

As Matthew mournfully walks away through the chaos, Théo takes Isabelle's hand and hurls a molotov cocktail at a line of police. The film ends as the police charge the crowd.



The first draft of the screenplay was an adaptation by Gilbert Adair of his own novel, The Holy Innocents. During pre-production, Bertolucci made changes to it: he "peppered the narrative with clips from the films he loves" and dropped homosexual content – including scenes from the novel that depict Matthew and Théo having sex – which he felt was "just too much." After the film was released, he said that it was "faithful to the spirit of the book but not the letter."[3]

Eva Green told The Guardian that her agent and her parents begged her not to take the role of Isabelle, concerned that the film – which features full frontal nudity and graphic sex scenes – would cause her career to "have the same destiny as Maria Schneider."[3]

When Green saw a rough cut of the film, she said she was "quite shocked" and had to look away during the sex scenes; she later told an interviewer that for her, "it was as though I was wearing a costume while we were making the film. It was as if I had another story in my mind. So I was left speechless."[3]


Fox Searchlight Pictures gave the uncut version a limited theatrical release in the United States in 2004; it played in 116 theaters at its peak.[4] In the United States, the film was released theatrically with an NC-17 rating[4] whereas in Italy the same film was rated VM14. Even with its NC-17 rating, this film grossed $2.5 million in its United States theatrical release – a respectable result for a specialized film with a targeted audience.[4]


Among the reviews gathered by review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, 61% gave it a "fresh rating", based on an average of 6.2/10.[5] The 40 reviews gathered by Metacritic gave it an average score of 62/100, which places the film in the website's "generally favorable" category.[6] A.O. Scott of The New York Times said the film was "disarmingly sweet and completely enchanting" and described it as "fus[ing] sexual discovery with political tumult by means of a heady, heedless romanticism that nearly obscures the film's patient, skeptical intelligence".[2] The Times called it a "heady blend of Last Tango and Stealing Beauty, but one that combines the grubbily voyeuristic elements of each film rather than their relative strengths".[7] Roger Ebert gave the film four stars, his highest rating, describing the film as "poignant" and "extraordinarily beautiful".[8]

Music and soundtrack

The music advisors were Julien Civange and Charles Henri de Pierrefeu. Janice Ginsberg is credited as music supervisor and Nick Laird-Clowes as music consultant.[9] The soundtrack was released in February 2004; Allmusic gave it three out of five, noting that "while its juxtapositions of French tradition and counterculture are jarring at times, Dreamers still does a worthy job of capturing the film's personal and political revolutions through music."[10]

  1. "Third Stone from the Sun" – Jimi Hendrix
  2. "Hey Joe" (cover version) – Michael Pitt & The Twins of Evil
  3. "Quatre Cents Coups" (from the score of "Les Quatre Cents Coups") – Jean Constantin
  4. "New York Herald Tribune" (from Breathless) – Martial Solal
  5. "Love Me Please Love Me" – Michel Polnareff
  6. "La Mer" – Charles Trenet
  7. "Song For Our Ancestors" – Steve Miller Band
  8. "The Spy" – The Doors
  9. "Tous les garçons et les filles" – Françoise Hardy
  10. "Ferdinand" (from Antoine Duhamel's score of "Pierrot Le Fou")
  11. "Dark Star" (special band edit) – The Grateful Dead
  12. "Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien" – Edith Piaf

Though the music of Janis Joplin and Big Brother and the Holding Company was featured prominently in the film, none of the songs were included on the soundtrack. All of the songs used in the film were from the album Live at Winterland '68. Bob Dylan's song "Queen Jane Approximately", from the album Highway 61 Revisited, is also used in the film but is not included on the soundtrack. The Doors song "Maggie M'Gill" can be heard in the movie, but is not included on the soundtrack either.

Home media

The Dreamers was released on DVD in 2004. It includes a BBC film directed by David M. Thompson, Bertolucci Makes The Dreamers, narrated by Zoë Wanamaker, and a documentary Outside the Window: Events in France, May 1968 with contributions from Robin Blackburn, Adair, and Bertolucci. Bertolucci says that 1968 was about cinema, politics, music, journalism, sex and philosophy dreaming together.

See also


  1. ^ a b The Dreamers at Box Office Mojo
  2. ^ a b When to Be Young Was Very Sexy, a review from The New York Times
  3. ^ a b c Stealing beauty, a February 2004 article from The Guardian
  4. ^ a b c NC-17 comes out from hiding, an April 2004 article from the Los Angeles Times
  5. ^ "The Dreamers".  
  6. ^ "The Dreamers".  
  7. ^ Ide, Wendy (4 November 2003). "The Dreamers bfi London Film Festival: The Times".   (subscription required)
  8. ^  
  9. ^ The Dreamers at the Internet Movie Database
  10. ^ The Dreamers (Original Soundtrack) at AllMusic

External links

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