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Dreams by the Sea

Dreams by the Sea, directed by Sakaris Stórá, is a coming-of-age film that also touches upon some societal problems and phenomena. It is as much about the feeling of freedom as it is about being in a prison since sometimes there is just nowhere to go if you live in the Faroe Islands. 

The Faroese Dream by the Sea depicts what it is like to live in a small community on an island where the word secret is barely known. If something happens, sooner or later, but rather sooner, everybody knows about it. Therefore, it can’t remain a secret when Ester, coming from a really religious family, questions the existence of God. The young girl appears to be okay with her life, but when Ragna arrives in the island, she sees a window that might lead to freedom. They find each other, support each other, and, in a way, they get from one another what they really want from life: Ester can experience all the so-far forbidden fruits (such as alcohol, partying), and Ragna and her little brother find a loving home, and a substitute father. Their friendship provides them with the feeling of closeness and immortality on a never-ending journey. In reality, though, everything needs to come to an end…

The plot and the story of Stórá’s feature is certainly a common one, the setting, on the other hand, introduces almost a completely new territory that is the Faroe Islands. The film is constructed according to the classical Hollywood narrative style, meaning it has a linear storyline and the editing creates continuity, but recognisably plays with the pace. For example, the cultivation of the friendship and the bond between the girls is not detailed, but sometimes unexpectedly long scenes conquer the screen. However, this doesn’t hinder the viewers from making sense of the story, as they are clearly capable of putting the pieces together. To elaborate on it a bit more, only the important moments of that particular summer are portrayed, those moments that carve a memory into the girls’ brain forever. So the plot develops gradually but in a fragmented way, meanwhile, the audience is mesmerised by the beautiful landscape – though the scenery does not necessarily resemble the one shown in travel brochures. The colours are rather blunt and the landscape is bleak, which can easily remind the audience of other Nordic films.

Sakaris Stórá’s feature debut definitely demands a place within the festival circuit. Not only because it is a true rarity as Faroese feature films are not released and screened in cinemas every day, but also because of its approach to the coming-of-age genre. Stórá’s not an unknown name within the cinema world since his short film entitled Winter Morning (Vetrarmorgun) won the Special Prize of the Generation 14plus International Jury at the Berlinale in 2014. Producer Jón Hammer has been working at Zentropa, founded by Peter Aalbæk Jensen and Lars von Trier, for five years, and editor Amalie Westerlin Tjellesen has edited shorts and a feature film before. Their collaboration has resulted in a refreshing example of the genre, which is sometimes fuelled by happiness, sometimes sadness. It is a story of a soul that first is let free then captured again, so dreams continue to be only dreams by the sea.

It might be stated as a fact that the Faroe Islands, among other parts of the Nordics, is getting more and more recognition as a tourist destination, so now it’s time to turn our head to see their achievement in cinema. Fortunately enough, the Faroese Film Institute has been founded recently, which theoretically means more Faroese films on screen. We’re definitely looking forward to seeing them.

This review is in the March issue of Cinema Scandinavia. 

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Information

  • Directed by Sakaris Stórá
  • Produced by Katja Adomeit, Jón Hammer & Ingun Skrivarastovu for Adomeit Film
  • Written by Marjun Syderbø Kjelnæs
  • Starring Juliett Nattestad, Helena Heðinsdóttir

Barbara is a journalist, editor and film critic. She usually does interviews with film-makers, artists, designers, and writes about cinema, design and books.