“I want to be gorgeous”
The above quote says everything. As do the lyrics to the titular song (originated by Aretha Franklin with Anna Domino providing vocals for the version used in the film) enhancing the melancholic atmosphere presented by writer/director Yann Gonzalez. His Land of My Dreams is just that: a dream. It’s a reunion between mother (Paula Guedes) and daughter (Julie Brémond‘s Bianca) after an unspecified length of time. The first thing we hear the latter say is “I want to be gorgeous,” sentiments that don’t seem to mean much more than the surface exposes at first. But as the film continues you realize all Bianca ever wanted was love—the love of her mother. A love that was real inside a world seemingly depleted of its power.
She is ready to join her mother on tour as a strip-teasing team roaming Europe for the odd euro in a hat—small penance for the joy Bianca’s body provides the strangers languishing in poverty yet always ready to give their last cent for pleasure. For a few euros more these audience members may touch her and she is a willing participant because it brings her closer to a woman who was never there. To be naked is to be near her mother. To be successful and adored is to be worth sticking around. But what of actual love? What of the potential that a young man like Hugo Alfredo Gomes may come along to give Bianca what she craves—personally, authentically, and romantically? What then?
The answer is a memory: pure and resonate to hold onto forever. Because in this fantasy world that Gonzalez creates (reminiscent of David Lynch‘s Club Silencio from Mulholland Drive), love and happiness are dreams. One cannot simply acquire the joy of love even if a moment may make it seem possible. No, this life is but fleeting images locked away and cherished to revisit in order to combat the harsh reality seen with open eyes. It’s images such as Bianca’s gyrating body to the music—breasts and smiles for these men to remember lust. Many only have those glimpses, so to experience what Bianca does with her nameless musician is a gift. But the only love that truly endures is of a mother’s touch.
So they lament the lost experiences and embrace their newly formed, unbreakable union. It’s a sumptuous visual feast of red sweaters and blue lights, cigarette smoke and the crack of a whip. The camera captures everything in widescreen whether the crowd of cat-calling men, the naked Bianca behind her hostess mother, or the quiet emptiness of civilization hiding those forgotten souls eventually finding their way to the show. It’s sex opposite love, physical contact opposite visual stimulation. And the one thing procured by all involved in this visual transaction is a promise that may never come to life. Beauty becomes a commodity that cannot be held. Instead its allure is everyone’s, cutting through the horror and tragedy. Bianca’s body becomes salvation—beauty within the oppressive vacuum of existence.