Traumfabrik (Dare to Dream and Dreamfactory) is available to rent or buy
From Cinema Paradiso to Empire of Light and The Fabelmans, there is no shortage of films that celebrate the beauty of cinema and our shared love of the silver screen. But how many of you reading this article have heard of Traumfabrik, a 2019 movie confusingly known by two alternate English titles, Dare to Dream and Dreamfactory.
In 1946, the East German DEFA company took over the famous Studio Babelsberg, with the vast complex that had given birth to Fritz Lang’s Metropolis divided by a post-war political agreement between the West and the East. However, until 1961, the studio continued to act as a conduit between East and West in employment and art. But as the cold war between Russia and the US increased, Germany became the focal point for tensions as an even more deadly iron curtain descended that would permanently segregate families, communities and artists with an impregnable wall.
It is within the turbulent history of the studio, its place, survival and its enduring magic that Martin Schreier’s romantic fantasy finds its voice by merging the colour and charm of La-la Land with the energy of The Greatest Showman. The result is a joyous slice of romantic drama that sweeps us away for two glorious hours. But Shreirer also layers his love letter to cinema and the power of dreams with an urgent exploration of love across borders and art over ideology.
The story opens as a grandfather consoles his grandson after he learns that love is never easy. As the boy’s eyes fill with tears, his grandfather recounts the story of a hard-won love that began in 1961 in East Berlin. Emil (Dennis Mojen) has just completed his national armed service as he arrives at the dream factory of the DEFA studios. Inside, his older brother Alex (Ken Duken) has secured him work as a walk-on extra in a pirate adventure starring an enigmatic but stroppy French actress Beatrice Morée. But as Emil walks onto the set, it’s Morée’s younger dance double, Milou (Emilia Schüle), who steals his heart.
As with so many films released in 2020 in the United Kingdom, Traumfabrik disappeared on streaming services, its luscious cinematography, grand staging and cinematic beauty lost on the small screen. Yet, Traumfabrik is undoubtedly one of the best feel-good films of that depressing year. Its screenplay merges fantasy, comedy and romance into a beautiful homage to the power of dreams, the wonder of the motion picture and the passion, drive and creativity of the artist and lover.
Dennis Mojen and Emilia Schüle’s on-screen chemistry radiates warmth their complex, historically layered, magical, and timeless characters, deeply engaging and vibrant. Meanwhile, director Martin Schreier bathes each scene in pure movie magic while never descending into romantic slush. Here the painful history of Germany’s East/West split is never sidelined, nor is the ability of love to transcend borders or the power of cinema in breaking down walls. Add to this a truly stunning score from Philipp Noll, and Traumfabrik becomes a romantic comedy/drama gem that has never received the credit it so duly deserved.