Two years ago, Apichatpong Weerasetakul spent almost a month in the Philippines and held his travelling art installation Serenity of Madness at the Museum of Modern Art and Design at De La Salle College in St. Petersburg. Known to have infiltrated the Thai subconscious through the dreams and folklore exhibited in art, he discussed (as he is often called by many people, including himself, for the sake of simplicity) the power of dreams and how each dream serves as a puzzle to complete the human psyche. Dreams are the beginning of the exploration of the human spirit, rooted in years of experience, shaped by culture, environment, society and politics. More than dreams that serve as portals to escape reality, dreams are cultivated illusions of human desires and aspirations, in which man dissolves into physical existence and becomes a kaleidoscope of the world, created by our imagination when man escapes from mundane life and finds comfort in realizing what the heart and soul desire. Victor Villanueva, known for his comic buffalo series My Paranormal Novel and Pathai in C Jesus, expresses this concept in the language of cinema. His latest creation, Lucid, explores dreams as more than an opportunity to free oneself from the panic and struggle of real life; the film rather explores the everyday stories of the average Filipino and his daily struggle in this capitalist society, dreams that serve as our only form of resistance against the ubiquitous machinations of life.
Ann (Alessandra de Rossi) lives her life by regularly following a series of actions: She wakes up, makes a hot dog and rice ready for her aunt, injects her with insulin, dresses for work, drives the EDSA in the UV Express, makes stamps on time while working in a government agency, does all the tasks assigned to her, occasionally watches her fall in love in the office, reads pocketbooks about romance and love or watches romantic movies on her cell phone and falls asleep while enjoying her bright dreams, which are usually about her infatuation. Then say it again. It’s a vicious circle that gnaws at Ann’s soul every day. The more she dives into her clear dreams, the more the routine changes. She meets a clever dreamer named Javi (JM De Guzman) and discovers that there is more than you think. She falls in love with a dream boy, a crazy elf, who interferes with her dreams. In real life she meets a joker named Kulas (Bob Jbayley) who works in the IT department of her office. While Ann first comes into contact with Kulas indecisively, she finally finds solace in their crazy antics.
Ann’s daily life is probably just like ours. We work hard and give all our strength in the hope of finding satisfaction or peace of mind. We strive to make our dreams an integral part of our reality. But dreams and reality are never the same. In exchange, we look everywhere for ways to fill wounds invisibly with life. Some people watch the latest romantic comedy every week, others travel deep into the world to discover something new, while others rely on cheap sensations such as walks in parks and participation in zumba sessions to kill time (and mark the fun, for example). Writer Nats Giadaone conscientiously distributes these breadcrumbs in Anna’s small world, and Giadaone’s writing is largely supported by the clear direction of Villanueva’s film. While the dream visualization is clearly due to the low budget, the intention of the plot to differentiate between reality and dreams is sufficient to finally bring the characters into their physical and mental state. Not only does Anne become the slave of daily capitalist society, eating and burning her soul, filled with melancholy and suffering, but she also becomes the slave of dreams that allow her to escape the truth. She becomes more and more entangled in hyper-reality, and as her reality and dreams fade day after day (we can see that Ann sometimes confuses dreams with reality and vice versa), she moves completely away from her reality.
Ultimately, the thin line that separates her dreams from her reality dissolves when she reaches the object of her desires in her dreams in real life. She manages to achieve everything she has worked for every day: a beautiful house, a promotion, a young love life with refrigeration and a life in abundance. For many people, those are the dreams. Maybe she doesn’t. Or maybe it is. But in realizing her dreams, just when she thought she had no reason to return to light dreams, she comes back to Javi with the heavy, dense feeling she felt before she could get everything she has now. She stays alone, despite her wish. It remains a slave to capitalism, to the hedonistic ideals that surround humanity and to the loneliness that devoured it from day one. Returning to her dreams, she discovered something more about Javi’s real life, the truth that emerges on the surface of his life and the emotional baggage he carries with him every day. And like the narcissistic rose that the prince had to feed and take care of in little Prince Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, the displeasure doesn’t seem to go far. It’s the helmet that haunts mankind every day. And that causes Anne’s transient melancholy, all the time.
The film is an accurate study of the nature of Filipinos on the verge of decadence. Ann constantly clenches her fist as she enters the world of dreams, perhaps as her only form of resistance to the cruel world in which she lives. She explores the art of lucid dreaming as her only form of personal satisfaction, because it is her only chance to challenge the stereotypical stories of her society. In her dreams she can be where she wants to be and be what she wants to be without anyone questioning her decisions. A feeling of melancholy surrounds his soul; whether it sinks into melancholy, one cannot say with certainty. She constantly questions the people who determine her existence. To be labeled as depressed or depressed limits the truth about what is really going on in their psychological well-being. She’s tired, that’s for sure. She’s had enough, that’s for sure. She’s certainly traumatized by her past. And she wants to retreat into her dreams where total control is present and the desires of her heart are available.
Alessandra De Rossi achieves the best performance of her career in Anna’s image, because she is restrained and refined in her character. It gives life to the figure, even through the minimal actions his face performs. Sometimes the lack of expression in De Rossi’s play reveals layers of loneliness in the image she tries to portray; then with a wink she embraces the melodrama that lurks behind the pain in Anna’s image and leaves us with spectators who are firmly attached to her. The Rossi carries the burden of his character’s problems on his shoulders and becomes a silent force of nature.
People can be deconstructed and interpreted in many ways. And, as I’ve said many times before, perhaps none of them were mistaken about the truths surrounding the film’s themes. The truth is that the film tells our daily story without any hint of fear or hesitation. The film tells the story of dreams in the most optimistic and pessimistic way possible. It is not perfect (not really perfect), but its closeness makes it an emotional attraction worth removing.
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