Steve Chen's Dream Land is the story of Lida, a young woman working in the quickly developing metropolis of Phnom Panh. Working as a real estate agent for upscale estates, which are being rapidly sold to the growing middle and upper classes as well as foreign investors, Lida is continuously suffering from the heartache and questions surrounding her current relationship with her boyfriend, Sokun, a fashion photographer. Steve Chen Dream Land is a simple, yet effective story about one woman's internal prison of doubt and uncertainty, a graceful and mature story that is impressive for a first time filmmaker, which touches on the pain, insecurities, and utter-isolation which a deteriorating relationship can have on the psyche. This is a film about the overall importance of trust in a relationship, with Lida's lack of trust, which seems to be well warranted, being what pushes her towards a more unstable emotional state. Dream Land captures the overall power of memory in times on contemplation as well, with Lida's positive memories of the good times with Sokun being a powerful source of her unwillingness to right off this man completely and start over. Dream Land's visual design is meticulously crafted and a central aspect to the film's success at capturing this woman's story, with Chen using an array of cinematic devices to capture the closed-in, trapped psyche of a character who struggles to express her doubts and insecurities with her boyfriend, a man she once communicated with such easily. One of the more alluring cinematic aspects of Dream Land is Chen's decision to routinely obstruct the compositions. Nearly every scene in which Lida and Sokun are in a room together Chen obstructs the frame in some capacity, whether it be overlaying images in the foreground, using blinding sunlight in the background, or simply a screen flare of light, Chen's compositions evokes the dream-like sense of stagnation, exhibiting Lida's sense of being adrift in a relationship in which the end game remains unclear, obstructed by her partner's lack of communication and dishonesty. Chen also uses the architecture of the budding metropolis of Phnom Panh, with large window panes and enclosed spaces of the apartments Lida hawks being another symbolic representation of the sense of enclosure she feels by not knowing where she stands with the man she loves. One of the most fascinating aspects of Dream Land is Steve Chen's juxtaposition of the old vs. the new Cambodia with Lida's internal struggle to rid herself of the memories and mistakes of her past, as the filmmakers have created a film in Dream Land that feels both incredibly intimate while simultaneously vast about the fast-paced changes Cambodia faces in its rapid modernization. Steven Chen's Dream Land is a beautifully composed film about time, space, memory, and regret, a film that slowly, and methodically reveals how Lida's relationship with Sokun was a dream, a desire of what she wants out of her love, with her memories and insecurities serving as the ultimate facade that hides the truth.
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