A declaration of love to cinema: the machine room of the pictures becomes the factory of dreams

Samay finds his revival in an old dilapidated cinema called Galaxy. The audience is totally into it. There is applause for the Bollywood film about Goddess Mahakali, some even let themselves be carried away in a spontaneous little dance. However, Samay is not only watching what is happening on the screen. The nine-year-old (Bhavin Rappari in his first role) looks into the screening room, as the light enters the hall. This look back is important in The Light That Dreams Make, because from now on, Samay doesn’t just want to watch as many movies as possible. Wants to understand how projection works.

Sami and his friends grew up in a rural setting in the Indian state of Gujarat, just a train ride from school and the nearest cinema. They want to “catch the light” as they call it. They first look through the stained glass and notice how the sun casts a shadow across the walls. Then they steal rolls of film from a warehouse at the train station and use their ingenuity to show a movie themselves. So it’s a good thing that Samay has made friends with a Galaxy protester. Fazl (Bhavish Shrimali) introduces him to the wonders of projection.

“The Light That Dreams Are Made of” takes place in 2010. Director Ban Nalin, who also wrote the script, dares to take a nostalgic look back at a time when Indian cinema was not alone on the cusp of digitalisation. When 35mm film was still piercing through a machine and a beam of light made individual frames dance.

Sleeping next to the projector that beeps

For this, Nalin chooses images with great symbolic power. His love for cinema can be literally captured when the boy embraces the projector in one scene – not the only one that makes one think of Giuseppe Torrentor’s “Cinema Paradiso”. In general, Nalin weaves a number of references into the history of the film. Once Samay sleeps next to the soft-sounding projector, accompanied by Richard Strauss’ “Also Sprach Zarathustra”, who had already accompanied Stanley Kubrick’s “2001”. The cinema machine room literally becomes a dream factory.

Of course, the story “The Light From Which Dreams Are Made” was seen in a number of variations of the cinema: the boy discovers his passion, but his parents do not understand. Pan Nalin tells them in bright colors, with fast cuts and a Bollywood soundtrack. When Samay dances in the screening room wearing sunglasses, all signs point to a feel-good movie.

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However, in the evolution of the coming-of-age struggle, it remains surprisingly mysterious. The angry father figure rarely acquires any features. His background as a farm rancher who was stolen by his brothers is only briefly mentioned. Richa Meena in the role of mother also has to do a little more than cook the most beautiful dishes with a gentle smile, which photographer Swabnil Sunawan smiled in an Instagram look.

(In Berlin cinemas Delphi Lux, Filmkunst 66, Hackesche Höfe, Moviemento)

The film becomes more exciting as Nalin addresses the social turmoil in India. The population is divided into those who speak English and those who do not, explains a Samay (Alpesh Tank) teacher. As far as technical progress in the country, it does not stop in the provinces – just like new electric trains that simply rush through the station where Samay’s father sells tea every day. He cannot read the declaration of revocation of his permit to stand. It is in English.

So Samay’s desire to build his own projector demands special urgency. The scene in which the children show a film for the first time to the other villagers, accompanied by their own sound effects and dialogue, is the most beautiful of Nalin’s declaration of love for the power of cinema. It captures not only the delightful effect of mass viewing, but also the meaning that movie viewing can carry. Especially in the cultural wasteland where the train to the galaxy no longer stops.

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