Dare to Dream review – Berlin movie love story waltzes around the Wall | Film


This German romantic drama – a handsome commercial for Studio Babelsberg, near Berlin, the world’s oldest major film studio, as well as for cinephilia in general – cheekily suggests that any dude off the street could direct a movie.

Strapping Dennis Mojen is Emil, a feckless East German soldier who, in 1961, is trying to blag work at what was then the state-owned DEFA studio. He stumbles into sassy dancer Milou (Emilia Schüle), a stand-in for a big French diva currently in residence. Sparks are starting to fly when the Soviets throw a geopolitical hissy fit and – very rude of them – sunder the lovebirds with the Berlin Wall. Not so much The Lives of Others as The Lives of Extras.

Dare to Dream is also, as its marketing hasn’t been slow to point out, La La Land-ish, with its photogenic lovers on a meta-filmic quest. Emil, who is supposedly banned from the studio, concocts a plan to rescue his love affair by posing as a director and whisking up a new version of Cleopatra that will attract the French star – and her beautiful stand-in – back to Babelsberg. But the La La Land resemblance is superficial: there are no true musical numbers and, with the protagonists less aware of the film history into which they waltz, not quite the same self-conscious spring.

Instead, it hews to a classical approach and an unabashed belief that directing boils down to – as Emil’s wide-eyed revelation has it – “what you feel when you’re sitting in the cinema”. Martin Schreier’s film knows its crowd-pleasing priorities – not to mention a framing device in which a crinkly Emil relates the dawn of his romance to his grandson while walking back to a house where … You can see where this is heading. But Dare to Dream also has enough about it – the central wheeze, the moment of crucial improvisation with which Emil salvages his directorial career and a confidently staged finale – to amuse on its own terms. At the very least, Babelsberg shouldn’t lack bookings post-Covid.

• Dare to Dream is on digital formats from 14 December.

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