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Liebestraum (1991)

 -  Mystery | Thriller  -  November 1991 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.0/10 from 1,216 users  
Reviews: 26 user | 9 critic

Two affairs, a generation apart. Nick, a professor of architecture in upstate New York, comes to an Illinois town to be with his birth mother in the final days of her illness; he was ... See full summary »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Jane Kessler
Paul Kessler
Lillian Anderson Munnsen
Sheriff Pete Ricker
Barnard Ralston IV
Dr. Parker
Anne Lange ...
Nurse #1
Jack Wallace ...
Orderly #1
Taina Elg ...
Old Mother Ralston
Tom McDermott ...
Night Porter
Day Clerk
Hugh Hurd ...
Orderly #2


Two affairs, a generation apart. Nick, a professor of architecture in upstate New York, comes to an Illinois town to be with his birth mother in the final days of her illness; he was adopted and has never known her. On the first day, he runs into Paul, a college friend, whose construction company is demolishing an old, downtown department store where a murder-suicide happened 30 years' before. The building is of beautiful cast-iron construction, so Nick wants to study it before the demolition. Paul introduces Nick to his wife, Jane, and over the next four days, their attraction grows as Nick explores the old building, attends his mother's bedside, and unravels the past. Written by <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


A story of lust, murder and dreams.


Mystery | Thriller

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for strong sensuality, and for language | See all certifications »




Release Date:

November 1991 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Atração Proibida  »

Filming Locations:

Box Office


$133,645 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Title is German and means "Dream of Love". See more »


Written by Franz Liszt
Performed by Alicia Witt (as Alicia Roanne Witt)
See more »

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User Reviews

Haunting, dreamlike film best experienced in uncut version!
14 September 2001 | by (Palm Desert, California) – See all my reviews

I love discovering films that completely surprise me and have me wanting to discuss them for hours with friends. Liebestraum had a very strong effect on me, and then when I found the "unrated" version I was overwhelmed all over again.

I love films like those from David Lynch, but sometimes Lynch tries too hard to make his characters as strange as possible (Wild At Heart was absolutely his worst offering). Mike Figgis' Liebestraum has the look and feel of a Lynch film, but the characters seem to be wandering through a haunting yet gorgeous dream, seemingly all sedated (something in the water?). Because this film is so well done, the slow and dreamy quality gives it a life of its own and I loved every moment of it. Which leads me back to this "unrated" business of it...

I first saw the "R" version on VHS (having missed its theatrical release), and by accident found it was available in an "unrated" director's cut that is about 9 minutes longer. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT: if you possibly can, see this longer version instead of the other! The one scene that takes place at a brothel is really the most important scene in the film, bringing several points of the plot into light! It shows that the prostitutes are also the same actresses as the nurses in the hospital, and a bit more insight to a fetish of Nick (Kevin Anderson) and the importance of the scent on his fingers. Once I saw this scene, the film made so much more sense and seemed like an entirely different film altogether! Apparently MGM decided to just put the "R" version on the DVD and place the brothel scene as a separate supplement to view as a "deleted scene." I'm afraid I may just hang onto my director's cut on VHS and watch that one instead. View that scene and you'll understand why it needs to be a part of the film.

Otherwise, WOW, what an experience. Nick's devotion to trying to save an old building with a dark past, the discovery of secrets and family ties....all beautifully revealed with stunning visuals and panache. Of course I found the story fascinating as well, so all these aspects when put together are breathtaking. Kevin Anderson, Pamela Gidley, and Bill Pullman manage give their roles meaning in what must have been frustrating to try and understand what the heck this film was going to really be -- It reminds me, for instance, Jessica Harper saying when she was working on Dario Argento's film Suspiria, she was not sure what that film was actually about because it was such an unusual project. But not to worry, much of Liebestraum's secrets are carefully revealed. It has been said Kim Novak's role was wasted since she barely speaks from a hospital bed in her scenes, but what else was she supposed to do?There must have been a reason she did the part anyway, and to hear Kim Novak utter a taboo word in one scene will make your jaw drop! Even Alicia Witt's brief dream sequence appearances and her performing the title piano piece along side the end credits is impressive. Now, if only I could get the soundtrack on the 10 Records label....anyone have a clue on that one? I've tried and tried and never could obtain it.

Accepting the surreal atmosphere in this film will help you then accept the equally surreal manner the characters possess. I've always been confounded as to why personalities are so guarded and bitchy in Hitchcock films, or even in many of the Italian giallos. Liebestraum's townsfolk seem to be on guard because you never know if someone knows more than they're letting on. There are mysteries to the town and the Ralston building and you have to watch each character like a hawk, as the film has subtle and symbolic clues (like the nurse/prostitute connection).

I was very impressed by the restraint used in the sexual aspect of Liebestraum -- this is the kind of film that had all sorts of opportunites to display nudity yet it held back (I wonder how many takes it took to get that towel on Anderson just right?), and made sex more sensual actually by giving us less to see.

I could go on about many scenes that had me awestruck, but that would take up too much space here! Nick's dreams and some creepy walks through the Ralston building are just a couple of the striking ones. See it to believe it for yourself, and I cannot stress this enough, hunt down the director's cut and see that one first if you can, you won't be sorry.

26 of 32 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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