The Dream


Reviewed by: Rebecca Naughten

The Dream
"It is fascinating to watch the development of ideas in the kitchen via the symbiotic interactions of the three brothers."

Billed as 'an opera in 12 plates' or 'a banquet in twelve acts', The Dream (El Somni) follows the preparation and delivery of a once-in-a-lifetime culinary experience masterminded by the team (brothers Joan, Josep, and Jordi Roca) behind the award-winning restaurant, El Celler de Can Roca in Girona. In collaboration with audiovisual artist Franc Aleu, the brothers take the idea of opera as an all-encompassing art form as the starting point to devise a unique meal that will engage all five senses.

Beyond the idea being a self-set challenge - they are at the top of their game, the recipients of three Michelin stars, and winners of the Best Restaurant award in 2013 - little explanation is given for the impetus behind the complicated (and no doubt expensive) endeavour depicted. This is an exploration of a cerebral or intellectual understanding of food and flavours and it is fascinating to watch the development of ideas in the kitchen via the symbiotic interactions of the three brothers. Each operates a different, but complimentary, aspect of the experimentation - Joan (Head Chef) is savoury, Josep is sommelier and master of ceremonies, and the sweet is Jordi (Pastry Chef) - that coalesces into a magical whole.

Integrating the practices and work of forty international artists, and interviewing a range of physicists, biologists, psychologists, dramatists, musicians, and production designers, the brothers develop the idea of a dream-like journey that will transport the dinner guests through conceptual stages such as space, under the sea, the fall, love, death, and awakening. Taste, smell, sight, hearing, and touch will all be engaged in what is designed as a deliberate sensory overload - although renowned for their gastronomic flair, this is a conscious move away from the brothers' roots, and this venture risks their reputation.

Whether they are fully successful or not is difficult to judge given that the viewing experience only involves sight and hearing. The music and the visual projection onto the table surface - and surrounding panorama - during the meal are impressively immersive, but director Franc Aleu goes for a more-is-more approach for the film viewer. During the kitchen experimentation stages, utilising graphics to illustrate the conceptual ideas at play in a visual fashion matches how the brothers pay as much attention to the appearance of what they serve as they do the flavours and textures. But as the film progresses Aleu excessively layers computer graphics over the top of the onscreen projections - this is a visual saturation that overwhelms other aspects of the presentation.

The skill, artistry, and imagination of the Roca brothers is undeniable. The food is beautiful and delightfully inventive - a highlight is a plate made out of dough that 'breathes' when the food comes into contact with it - and the thought processes behind the development of each given serving are interesting to watch and listen to. However, these dishes and their creators may have been better served by a more pared-back style of filmmaking rather than something that - although in keeping with what they were trying to achieve in their dining experience - actively competes with it as well.

Reviewed on: 26 Sep 2014
Share this with others on...
A cinematic encounter, examining cookery as art.

Director: Franc Aleu

Writer: Franc Aleu, Jo Sol

Starring: Joan Roca, Josep Roca, Jordi Roca

Year: 2014

Runtime: 82 minutes

Country: Spain


SSFF 2013

Search database: