Dare to Dream (Traumfabrik) is released on all major digital platforms 14th December 2020
In the Spring of 1946, the East German DEFA company took over the famous Studio Babelsberg. The vast complex that had given birth to Fritz Lang’s Metropolis caught up in the segregation of Berlin. However, up until 1961, the studio continued to act as a conduit between east and west, both in employment and filmmaking. But, as the cold war between Russia and the USA increased in its intensity. Germany became a focal point for tensions, with an iron curtain finally descending in 1961. With families and communities cut in half as an infamous wall began construction. However, for Studio Babelsberg, life would go on. Its magical sound stages having survived Imperialism, Fascism, the obliteration of war and the social division of peace.
It is within the turbulent history of the studio, its place, survival and enduring magic that Martin Schreier’s romantic fantasy finds its voice. With the films rich visuals, luscious production values and outstanding performances merging the energy of La-la Land with the magic of The Greatest Showman. The result of which is a slice of escapist delight; sweeping the viewer away from the pain of lockdown for two glorious hours. But, make no mistake; this is no wannabe musical in either design or delivery. Its style, panache and beauty firmly embedded in European filmmaking and storytelling. Here, Shreirer layers his romantic fantasy with a more urgent exploration of love across enforced borders. However, despite the pain of Berlin’s division sitting front and centre, Dare to Dream is full of hope and optimism; a glorious love letter to cinema and the power of dreams.
Our story opens as a grandfather consoles his grandson; the young boy having just learned that love is never easy, and the expression of emotions can be equally as hard. His tear-filled eyes, leading his grandfather to recount a story of hardwon love. A story that starts during the summer of 1961 in East Berlin, as Emil (Dennis Mojen) leaves national armed service for the DEFA studios dream factory. His older brother Alex (Ken Duken), having secured him work as an extra. With Emil’s first movie a pirate adventure starring the enigmatic and stroppy French actress Beatrice Morée. However, in Emil’s eyes, the real star is her younger dance double Milou (Emilia Schüle). And when Emil steels a brief kiss from Milou on set, his heart is stolen forever.
However, despite the spark of electricity between our young lovers, and their plan for a second meeting, Berlin descends into crisis. With the borders closed and the roads dug up as the city finds itself unceremoniously split in two. But, nothing will stop Emil from meeting Milou again; leading him to impersonate a film producer, his mission to write and direct a new movie. His hope that this will bring Milou back to Babelsberg alongside Beatrice Morée. However, Emil’s plan is mired in problems. After all, he has no experience, no crew, and studio bosses who want him removed from the site.
As with so many films during 2020, Dare to Dream (Traumfabrik) is a luscious, grand, big-screen movie that sadly never made it to cinemas in the UK. Its beautiful cinematography, sublime score by Philipp Noll, and stunning performances, glowing with the magic of cinema. While at the same time, its sheer scale and scope equal that of so many similar Hollywood productions that have received wide critical praise. Therefore, my love of the film also found itself tinged with sadness; first that such a beautiful, feelgood film bypassed our cinema screens, and second that it has not received the praise it deserved outside of Germany. I obviously cannot change the first of these points, but let me change the second.
Dare to Dream is undoubtedly one of the best feel-good films of 2020. And boy, do we need it!. Its screenplay dovetailing fantasy, comedy and romance into one perfectly packaged homage to the power of dreams, passion and creativity. With Dennis Mojen and Emilia Schüle’s on-screen chemistry radiating warmth. Their characters both complex and real, while also magical, and timeless. A dynamic only accentuated by a supporting cast of exceptional talent. With director Martin Schreier bathing each scene in dreamlike wonder, while never descending into slushy romantic stereotypes or lazy cliches. The painful history of German segregation dovetailed with the power of our human desire for connection across borders. While at the same time, the power of cinema to unite our world sits centre stage. In a movie that understands the importance and magic of film and cinema, in a year where our theatres have remained largely closed.
The result is a movie that delights in whisking you away from the heartbreak of 2020. Its feel-good vibes an antidote to the separation, hurt and despair of a year we would all rather forget. And this makes Dare to Dream (Traumfabrik) the movie we all need as 2020 draws to an end, its magic, love and optimism giving us all hope for a better 2021.
Director: Martin Schreier
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