The Dream Life of Angels

I watched this film when I was 16 in my French class. I remember at the time thinking it was  a pretty good film, fairly realistic, and one that my 16-year-old self could easily identify with.

I would say the theme of the movie is Dworkin’s quote: ‘every  woman is one man away from welfare’ (or something along those lines). She was referring to husbands, bosses, fathers. You could extend the quote: every woman is one man away from homelessness, prostitution and death.

Anyway, little did I realise at the time that it was a MIRACLE the movie existed at all. I thought, of course, that there would be more of such films. But there weren’t. Oh, there were plenty of  romanticized images of hardship and suffering (women’s suffering being sexy, of course), but nothing that comes as close to examining the inner lives of women as The Dream Life of Angels.

It passes the Bechdel test with flying colours. Another main theme is female friendship, and this is what makes it stand head and shoulders above the rest. [The Bechdel test is a feminist benchmark for movies.

1. It has to have at least two women in it
2. Who talk to each other
3. About something besides a man

Only a few movies pass. Go ahead, try to think of some. It’s extremely difficult. Most movies manage to get to #2 but don’t ever make it to #3]

Here is the scene when the young Marie discovers the man she thought was her boyfriend had just been using her for sex, and the subsequent fight in the appartment with her best friend, who tries to physically stop her from going back to him:


3 thoughts on “The Dream Life of Angels

  1. Hello, thanks a lot for allowing me to discover this film! I’ll get a copy and send it over to my friends around here, we’re always on the look of films to watch where we won’t be wincing every second at the male gazed hatred of women portrayed in the film. This one seems quite refreshening. It seems that there were more films with women as human beings 20 years ago than they are now with the porn backlash. Shame it’s done by a man though, and that she dies at the end. Typical patriarchal way to punish women at the end of films, they always do that, to remind us that being free is dangerous, that she transgressed a line so she gets what she deserves. She should have killed that bastard instead of killing herself!

    Re the bechdel test, I always tell anyone I can about it, and then they come back to me some time later and say “wow, you were right, I hadn’t realised how invisible women are, it’s horrible, etc”.

    I usually read the indie film programs of my town every now and then and just count the ratio of women for all the films broadcasted (those are indie lefty highbrow cinemas, not the blockbuster mainstream hollywood ones):
    -Women film-makers: never more than 10% (seems like it’s a threshold, a golden rule, never less than 90% males otherwise it’s too threatening)
    -Films that pass the bechdel test: never more than 2% (often none at all).
    -Feminist films? Bwahahahaha!!! You must be kidding! Well, once every year maybe, at “special occasions” when they organise events to “raise awareness”.

    Like all your posts by the way! : )

  2. shit, I liked my own post. didn’t mean to.

    Hi witchwind 🙂 I agree with you about the suicide. I first understood it as showing how hopeless life can be for women, but the real message is that you shouldn’t transgress your prescribed role as a) wife or b) prostitute isn’t it!! That’s what you get for living with your friend and envisaging freedom.
    Having said that, it doesn’t destroy the overwhelming theme of female connection . I remember reading about movies in Iran, where male directors would shoot films about working women, a nurse, say, who strives for independence. At the end of the film she always got her comeuppance, but the idea that there were other paths to take apparently wasn’t lost on the female audience and overall the films ended up having a positive impact on women’s aspirations!

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