Drama-documentary "Flash of a Dream" chronologically tells the story of the Danish man Jacob A. Riis who emigrated to the United States and became famous for his photo documentarism about the poverty of New York in the early twentieth century. This subject is excellent; for Americans and Danes alike this is an interesting and relevant chapter in our shared history, and one that at least Danes are commonly unaware of.
However, the manner in which the story is told here leaves me cold. A subject which would certainly have made a good documentary, and quite possibly a good feature film, is turned into something which is both and neither. Swedish actor Peter Stormare narrates as Riis from a manuscript which is probably inspired by Riis' book "How the Other Half Lives", interrupted only by a few paragraphs narrated by Anna Christine Löf as Riis' lost love Elisabeth. Stormare speaks with a touch of a Scandinavian accent blended into an American accent so thick it seems affected. Most of all, though, it is the monotony and melancholy of his reading and the frequent sentimentality of the text that are annoyances.
This is accompanied by an imagery consisting of Riis' black-and-white photographs, black-and-white reconstructions of situations from Riis' experiences in New York, and some colour footage of present-day poverty in America. Trying to link the poverty of a century ago with the poverty of today is a good idea, but the attempt is much too unsubstantiated, and there is really very little of visual interest other than Riis' own photographs which are seen only briefly.
Some hand-written lines of Riis' writings are used as graphical elements, but there are no actual historical sources referenced in the film. While this may be natural in a dramatic work it leaves me as a viewer strangely uninterested and not much more knowledgeable about Jacob A. Riis and his work.
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