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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Girl of Your Dreams (La niña de tus ojos)
The Girl of Your Dreams (La niña de tus ojos)
Ventura // R // May 11, 2004
List Price: $19.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Holly E. Ordway | posted June 21, 2004 | E-mail the Author
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The movie

Sometimes movies win multiple awards because they're outstanding films... and sometimes they win a full slate because there's nothing much else on offer that year. Such is, I think, the case with The Girl of Your Dreams (original title: La niña de tus ojos), which took home seven Spanish Goya Awards (the equivalent of the Academy Awards), including Best Film. I've found the Goya Awards to usually be a decent guide to good Spanish films, but with The Girl of Your Dreams I was left scratching my head.

In this self-referential film, the title refers to a movie being created by the characters, a troupe of actors who have fled civil-war-torn 1930s Spain to Berlin, where they have been invited to make German and Spanish versions of the same film, The Girl of Your Dreams. The film opens with the bus-load of characters arriving at the German film studios... and goes pretty much nowhere for quite a while.

I get the impression that we are supposed to be impressed by the period sets and costumes, the attention to detail, and the overall ambiance of the film. OK, it's well done. Now what? The Girl of Your Dreams has an ensemble cast, and I imagine that part of the point of the film is to see how the troupe's situation affects the different characters differently. Unfortunately, though, the characters are all introduced in a rush, and they're never really well differentiated; apart from Macarena (Penélope Cruz, affecting a strong Andalucian accent for the role) none of them are well established as characters, and so their interrelationships lack interest for the viewer. A few amusing touches appear here and there, mainly in the Spanish actors' reaction to Germany (and the German set designers' ideas of what the film's setting in southern Spain looks like), but they're few and far between, appearing only often enough to make you wonder whether this is supposed to be a comedy or a drama.

More than an hour into the film, we start seeing some vestiges of a plot. Macarena becomes the center of a storm of potential trouble, as she resists the lecherous advances of Dr. Goebbels, the Minister of Propaganda. A bit later, she befriends one of the prisoner extras, whose subsequent escape throws all the actors' lives into disarray and outright danger. But at this point, the payoff is surprisingly small. There's been no build-up to this point, as the film has more or less meandered through a string of incidents without any compelling narrative thread.

The Girl of Your Dreams is directed by Fernando Trueba, and in fact it is strikingly similar in tone and execution to Trueba's earlier film Belle Epoque, which also featured Penélope Cruz. There's the same odd mix of humor with mostly straight drama, the lack of any vestige of a normal narrative, and the slightly exaggerated or at least rather peculiar characters. Viewers who enjoyed Belle Epoque will most likely find The Girl of Your Dreams to their taste... and vice versa.

The DVD

Video

Lolafilms has given The Girl of Your Dreams a very nice video transfer onto DVD, with an anamorphically enhanced 2.35:1 widescreen transfer. The film's fairly subdued color palette is heavy on the browns and blacks, but the contrast is handled well even in challenging scenes, and overall the image has a clean appearance, though a few print flaws do sneak through here and there. Edge enhancement is virtually absent, and while there's a certain softness to some of the longer-distance shots, middle-distance and close-up shots look excellent. The English subtitles are optional, and presented in an easy-to-read white font. Overall, it's a very solid transfer.

Audio

Two audio tracks are included here: the default Spanish Dolby 5.1, and a dubbed Spanish Dolby 2.0 track. No, I didn't mis-type that; the second track is also in Spanish, but dubbed. The original soundtrack, which receives the 5.1 treatment, is in Castilian Spanish; the dubbed track is in Latin American Spanish, which has a different accent. (Misleadingly, on the DVD case it's called a "neutral Spanish" track, which is nonsense. That's like re-dubbing a British film with U.S. actors and calling it a "neutral English" track.) Anyway, you'll want to choose the 5.1 track for two obvious reasons: it features the voices of the real actors, not inferior voice actors, and it offers surround sound.

The overall sound quality is quite solid. There's not a whole lot of surround ambiance, but the side channels do get used to a certain extent. A few times I felt that the dialogue wasn't as clear as it ought to be, with the background parts of the soundtrack a little too loud, but overall it is clear and satisfactory.

Optional English subtitles are provided. The default setting has Spanish subtitles, which only appear during those parts of the German dialogue that the audience is intended to understand.

Extras

There's a respectable slate of bonus materials here. Of most note is a fairly substantial "Making of" documentary featuring director Fernando Trueba discussing his thoughts on the film. The interview segments with Trueba are intercut with mock-newsreel style interviews with the various actors, who remain in character while they discuss their roles in the film-within-the-film; it's a cute conceit, but taken to a bit too much length. Another interesting featurette is on "Visual effects," concentrating on the paintings and set construction by Emilio Ruiz. Both featurettes are in the original Spanish, with optional English subtitles.

For minor special features, we get a set of outtakes, and trailers (theatrical and teaser) for the film.

Final thoughts

If you liked Fernando Trueba's Belle Epoque, you'll probably like The Girl of Your Dreams, and vice versa. This rather peculiar film, with its film-within-a-film set in Hitler's Berlin, has excellent production values and well-known actors, but lacks an interesting story, making it an exercise in wondering what the point is. I'm not particularly enthused about it, but I'll grant it a "Rent it."

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