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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.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
As far as I can see, pretty much everyone has gotten the "plot twist"
of this film wrong, from IMDb commenters to all of the "pro" reviewers.
Although my comments/"review" are effectively a spoiler, I think people
just might enjoy the film more if you knew this information beforehand.
Or just come back here and check to see if you got it right afterward.
If you even see this, since I am so far down. Anyway, I'll give you a
hint first, and then get into the spoiler. (and "review")
Hint: Keep a VERY close eye on the TRUE relationship between the two main characters: Nick and Jane. What are you missing? (if you are)
And now for the rest of the story. But first, let me say that, although the film is beautifully shot, and very nourish, and the acting is pretty good, considering, the film eventually fails I think because most people will not "get it", and end up irritated and frustrated.
So here's the spoiler: Nick and Jane were blood-related. Stop now and watch the movie if you want to "figure it out for yourself". Otherwise, continue on and follow closely.
The man and woman who were having sex "years ago" and were shot (by a (pregnant) WOMAN, NOT! a man! -- work with me here, people -- at least pay attention), they were related to the current time people as follows. The man who was shot was Nick's father. (notice the resemblance in the police report photos, like Nick does) Who was (obviously?) married to Nick's dieing mother. Nick's father was having an affair with a BLONDE woman who we end up finding out was a Ralston (IF you are really paying attention), possibly the wife of the man who owned the building, or maybe just a rich daughter -- whatever. So, the WOMAN who shot them was Nick's mother, who was pregnant (big belly) with Nick at the time. She went whacko, as was mentioned, and so Nick had to be adopted out, because he lost his mother and his father.
And now for Jane. At the end of the movie, she "freaks out" when she sees the (BLONDE!) woman in the wheelchair. See where I'm going with this? That woman was her mother. Remember, she was adopted, too, and didn't know her parents, either. So, the woman was shot in the head (they kind of made a point of showing the scar), and didn't die. Only Nick's father died. This is also the reason Nick's mother freaked out when Jane went into her hospital room. She either knew who she was, or, was near-dieing confused and thought she was the blonde woman she shot. Again, what-ev-er.
(also, remember Nick's mother freaking out when she found out she was back in the town? -- it sure would have been nice if all of this was more evident, which is why the film really fails)
Now, what I'm thinking is this, and it needs some stretching and "guessing" and both deductive and inductive logic. (this is why I always make a point of stating that film, TV, whatever, should always be watched "intelligently" -- even if it's only watched for entertainment -- you will (and do, regardless) get things out of it that you won't even recognize or understand or know about, until MAYBE later -- although much of it is subconscious -- regardless, it's ALL good -- people who don't watch film and TV and such tend to be almost as bad as people who don't read books -- somewhat (or a lot) shallow; lacking in wisdom; common sense escapes them; not as able to deal with and solve life's problems; and a host of other unfortunate traits -- it is AS BAD as someone who is uneducated or under-educated -- but I digress)
Anyway, I think Nick's father impregnated the blonde Ralston woman, who was Jane's mother, which make Nick and Jane step brother and sister. THAT is the real (final and major) "plot twist" of the film. Did they figure it out, and know, and have sex anyway? I don't know.
As for why Jane's husband was acting the way he was, maybe he knew who Jane really was, and some other stuff, or maybe he was just a jealous husband and land developer on a tight schedule who was having marital problems with his wife. What do you think? I think I got a HELL of a lot closer than anyone else. Anyway, the film is better if you know what I've written about here. No irritation and frustration at the end. I hate when that happens. (sorry this is so long)
I think that anyone under 30 years of age will find it hard to relate
to the essence of this film...make that 40! Adoption - rootless - the
symbolism of the building is so powerful. It becomes the essence of all
that once was life and strength. Now it has become abandoned and
derelict. Love - loss - distraction - deception - and the patterns of
the past are cleverely conjured back into the present by the marvellous
This is a movie that speaks about Loss - and presents this in evocative and intuitive visual terms. It's far from the MTV slickness of 2 clips a second - because it's engineered and paced to touch chords. David Lean is a genius in this.
If you watch this film and become bored, then you need to try again in the later half of your life.
It's one that I'd take if I was going to be marooned on a desert island.Along with Citizen Kane, Ghostbusters 1 and Damage.
Some of the comments here on this movie seem to point in the direction
people simply don't seem to be able to grasp the subtle implications of
movie. The movie consists of two intertwined stories, one in the past and
one in the present, and until the very end, the story of the present is a
direct repetition of the story of the past, only in a different setting.
some of the people from the story of the past are still alive and present
the story of the present.
Most importantly, Bill Pullmans character, Paul Kessler, plays the repetition-role of the angry husband, who one generation ago killed his wife and her lover. Only Paul Kessler doesn't (yet) have an adulterous wife to kill, so his hate and anger is pointed at the building, in which the past act of hatred took place. Paul Kessler is the engine that drives the repetition-pattern in the present of past events, and the two main characters, Nick Kaminsky and Pauls wife Jane, can't help but to play their part in repeating history.
The love- and the hate-stories of the past and the present and their repetitive nature are the drives and motivators of this movie, and everything else evolves and is motivated from this pattern.
The movie really isn't that subtle, it simply can't be explained by mere deductive logic. It's a love- and hate- and crime- and almost a ghoststory and if you absolutely have to have an explanation for everything in this movie, the explanation would have to be found in the explanation of the present through the past and in the illogical event of the almost complete repetition of the past in the present.
I was hooked from the first minute I saw this one! All my friends to whom I
recommended this film, liked it too. And they said all the same. Good, you
told us to watch this movie very carefully, and keep concentrated on it,
constantly, cause it will keep you guessing long after you seen it! Seldom
I've seen a film, so slow, but so good! It has such a strange feel about it,
it's erotic and it has thriller effects, especially each time somebody
enters the building. The leads are good, Pullman exellent! Mike Figgis is a
great director, but he never made something good, as this, afterwards. Very
nice photography, and good soundtrack.
This is a very good movie, as discussed by Janet Maslin in her NY Times review of same. It is very moody and "atmospheric" with a lot of silence between the lines, and I like that kind of film. The best part for me came at the very end when the Franz Liszt piano solo Liebestraum begins playing, and then during the credits you see the full performance (about 4 to 5 minutes long) by the pianist. I don't recall her name, but she appears to be very young, has long red hair, and plays like an absolute master. Thus I became a huge fan of Liebestrum, and its composer. Something similar happens during the credits of the movie The Pianist, where the performance of the piano music is actually a highlight of the film.
I was living in the upstate NY town that this was filmed in. I wanted to see the movie as soon as it was available, mainly for that reason and I was pleasantly surprised at this unique movie. The story line is quite intriguing and really draws you in, slowly but surely. So, not only do I have in my video library a fine, interesting film, but also on film a town that I grew up in and love. A definite must see! Note: I also loved the use of the classical music.
But given that, not a terrible watch. I read a comment about the lighting being special in this film. This really added to my enjoyment. I suppose that Kevin Anderson and his management expected his career to take off, because he did Leibestraum the same year (1991) as "Sleeping With The Enemy" with Julia Roberts, whose career was blossoming. Not that Kevin hasn't hit the big time since then. Who knows. Maybe he has wildly surpassed his personal goals. I enjoy his performances, including the TV thing about a Catholic priest a few years back. For DVD renters, catch the deleted scene. This is the coolest. The ladies at the Cat House, are also the nurses in the hospital. This revelation was the highlight of the film. For that reason, I don't understand why it was left out. There are equally explicit scenes that were left in, and they dovetail with the deleted scene. But, I was not the writer and director of Internal Affairs, successfully released the previous year.
I first saw a trailer for this on a now defunct late night TV programme back in 1991. It had me hooked from the start with stylish lighting, great music and sharp editing promising a modern noir thriller with shades of "Dead Again". Due to a limited cinema release the first chance I got to see the film was a couple of years later when I saw the box in a video store. I bought it immediately, figuring it might be interesting. I underestimated. This is a fantastic film filled with emotion and beauty. The first time I saw it it blew me away. I expected a cool little thriller and was rewarded with something much more. This is not a murder mystery or a thriller, per se, but a love story shot through a noir lens. The soundtrack (also by Figgis) is astounding and the acting is perfect. Particular kudos to the then-unknown Bill Pullman who puts in a career best performance. Also, if you actually figure out the central twist of the film (listen to the conversation in the car between Jane and Nick) you will wonder how on earth Figgis got this past a studio. Ever since I first saw it I've been trying to convert my friends to it's wonders with much success. See it now and your life may not be better, but two hours of it will have been well spent. Remember: Only you can prevent forest fires
Kim Novak returned to films in this Mike Figgis film. During the
shooting there was a lot of PR generated by the legendary star's return
to films including an interview with Kim Novak by the Sunday New York
times Movie Section, great advance PR for the film. The back story of
this movie would have been a better film than what appears on screen.
Ms. Novak fought bitterly with Mike Figgis who threatened to cut Kim
Novak's part to shreds, and Figgis did. What resulted is a muddled film
that stars Kevin Anderson a fine actor whose part must also have been
edited. Ditto Bill Pullman. Liebestraum - a brilliant title- makes
little sense as a film.
Liebestraum started out as a Warner Bros film but ended up as a MGM film and that once fabled studio was going thru one of its periodic slumps and financial distresses and gave this film a very very limited opening in only two cities Los Angeles and New York. The New York Times favorably reviewed Ms. Novak in its review which should have given MGM and Figgis to open the picture more widely. The mystery here is not the film's murky subject but the fact that Kim Novak a worldwide star and a very under appreciated actress was given so little to do but moan. Novak is seen basically bed ridden and moaning during the film until a shocking windup.
In a purely business observation, Kim Novak was at one time a huge box office draw with films such as Vertigo, Picnic, Bell Book and Candle, Pal Joey, Strangers When We Meet, The Mirror Crack'd et al and MGM and Figgis should have sold this as a Kim Novak return project and they would have made their money back on that. Instead, Kim Novak was ignored by Figgis who in turn ignored this film refusing to do any PR for the project upon its release and sadly this film ended the film career of Kim Novak.
Madonna was supposed to do the female lead but told her then beau Warren Beatty she did not understand the script. Beatty wisely told Madonna if she did not understand the project do not do it. Pam Gidley stepped in to replace Madonna. Wise move on Madonna's part.
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