Admittedly, I am awestruck by this film. I am thankful I watched it alone in my room and not in the confines of a public movie theater, because throughout my viewing I exclaimed in shock and earnest confusion nearly every other scene. Firstly, it is fascinating to see Paris during the 60s, juxtaposed alongside America during similar periods of civil unrest. Matthew’s commentary on the Vietnam War, particularly in the bathtub scene with Theo, as well as their heated (and violent) discussion on Maoism left me bewildered and questioning. What does it mean to be a revolutionary, and could either of these really count as one? Or at least a member of an attempted revolution? As the film closes and Matthew is left stranded in his morals while his two loves running chasing after violence and revolution and riot and thrill, I could not help but be drawn back to last week’s lecture on social movement theory. Matthew exclaims that this–this violence–is not them. That they are brains and love and passion. Books–not molotov cocktails.

The “perverted sexuality and extreme cinephillia”, as one film critic claims, of the film is infinitely Parisian. The radical nature of Theo and and Isabelle proves to be one of self-destruction, and ultimately is not a path Matthew is willing to walk down. These moments of tension and disagreement with the ardent chants “you’re one of us” provide the unsettlement constantly present throughout the film. Bertolucci’s production of radicalism begs questions, then, about what is productive counterculture and what is simply futile disruptions by the bored children of French writers. The interior world this triad constructs may be appealing (if not for the incest), yet the exterior surrounding them stirs greater unrest inside their mansion of sex and alcohol and cinema. What is sustainable about the world they create? How could it ever be applied in the real world revolutions? The Dreamers ultimately displays the cavalier, romanticized, radicalized notions of young Paris in the 60s. It portrays the sexual allure of young, attractive, wealthy, and frivolous, as if this were common place and truly achievable. All the while, the world is in disarray and the marches outside on the streets refuse to hold this fantasy.

The passage from innocence to experience is muddled in The Dreamers. It is altogether bizarre and strange, the relationships and intimacies struck up in this Bertolucci masterpiece. The creation of the 1968 summer student riots in Paris as a backdrop for the development of these three curious characters illuminates underlying themes of radicalism and frivolity, romanticizing the revolution and dismissing the immoral. Within the context of this course, I find it particularly interesting to ask, Was this a revolution at all? Can it count if it failed? What is the context for the riots, and do their roles in it really matter? What is the true difference between Theo and Matthew (violence and books)?