If you’ve scrolled through a Tumblr dashboard within the past six months you’ve probably come across lists of life hacks, a few over-edited photos of roses, and most likely, a screen capture or gif set from the movie The Dreamers. It probably looked a little bit like this:
This scene and quote from the movie has been wildly popular within the Tumblr community for years. In 2008, it routinely appeared on my dashboard, just as it does now. All of this is understandable too, seeing as Tumblr is the “most popular social network for teens”, beating Facebook (at 55%) by six percent, as reported by USA Today Tech in 2013. That being said, everything in this movie scene appeals to the average teen: a little wine, a little makeshift fort, and a little romance.
But there is much more to the storyline than the screen cap leads the average Tumblr user to believe! I was able to get my hands on a copy of the 2003 Italian film and finally see what all of the fuss was about.
The only background that I had on the film was what I had seen on Tumblr, so I was blindly going into it, expecting a sort of foreign romantic comedy type of experience. I was quite wrong.
The film, directed by Bernardo Bertolucci (Last Tango in Paris, Stealing Beauty), follows three teenagers: Matthew (Michael Pitt), an American studying in Paris, and his developing friendship with Parisian siblings Isabelle (Eva Green) and Theo (Louis Garrel). The three meet at the cinémathèque, proceed to have dinner at the siblings’ flat, and when their parents leave to travel, Matthew moves into their spare room.
On the first night that Matthew sleeps in the flat, he comes across what he thinks is Isabelle’s room. But when he looks through the cracked door, he finds the siblings sleeping in bed together, naked.
Throughout the film, the trio challenges each other on their cinematic knowledge by reenacting scenes from historic movies and prompting the other two to guess which film the scene is from. It is only through the failures of all three of the teenagers that the viewer learns of a strange dynamic that links them together. Whenever one of the contestants would guess incorrectly or run out of time to shout out an answer, the person who was acting would force them to do something. It comes across as a game of Truth or Dare, but without the truth option, and the dares are all sexual.
All the while, Isabelle is falling in love with Matthew (and vice versa). The film twists, turns, and cuts corners, going from scenes of the friends motorbiking through Paris streets to a scene where Theo “dares” Isabelle to have sex with Matthew on the kitchen floor while he watches and cooks eggs.
When Matthew begins to catch onto the fact that there is more to Isabelle and Theo’s relationship than just being siblings, he begins to ask questions. One of which is what Isabelle would do if her parents ever discovered the things that she and her brother have done together. She responds to Matthew’s inquiry by telling him that she would have to kill herself.
This brings us to our famous scene that is displayed those countless Tumblr posts. Isabelle surprises Matthew and Theo with a homemade fort, and the friends open a bottle of wine and lay together among the blankets, ultimately falling asleep naked. The siblings’ parents promptly arrive back from their travels to find the exposed threesome, still asleep. The adults decide to write them another check and slip out the door before the teenagers wake. But when Isabelle opens her eyes and finds the check, she knows that her parents saw them.
Based on her response to Matthew’s earlier question and my disgust for spoilers, I won’t write about the ending of the film.
The point of this post is not to point fingers at Tumblr users and ridicule them for thinking that this film is another tale of love, loss, and desperation based on a gif set or movie quote. I was a fish in that same sea just before I chose to watch the film. This is merely an exploration into culture, and a lesson to both you and me that there is always more to the story than what we are led to believe.
See for yourself: Watch the trailer for the film below