“Sooner or later it will all be over for us here.”
Sweet Dreams is the International Feature submission from the Netherlands. The film takes place in the Dutch East Indies in the early 1900s. This is around the time where the Dutch begin to lose their grip on numerous territories that they controlled for over a century. Indonesia was one of them. Jan, the owner of the estate, runs a large sugar plantation on the island while frequently having sex with one of his servants, Siti. They both have a child together named Karel.
When Jan passes away suddenly, his wife Agathe sends for her son Cornelis and his wife Josefien to come to the island due to all of the unrest that’s been happening lately. Cornelis wants to sell off the fields and the estate as quickly as possible so that they can return back to Europe, contrary to Agathe’s wishes. But, there’s a problem: Jan has left the entire property to his son Karel.
Sweet Dreams is a film on the verge of total eruption of violence between all of the characters. Some of the family members want to stay on the island, while others want to leave. The normal rules don’t apply here, according to Cornelis. With the mosquitoes lingering and the heat and humidity overpowering, the sense of doom is imminent. With so many options available, and with so many people wanting different things, Sweet Dreams highlights the chaotic turbulence that existed during this time.
This sharp-eyed satire is a potent reminder that European colonialism didn’t end in a friendly manner in the countless countries that it affected. And even more so, Sweet Dreams provides an insight into the mess that all of these regions were suffering from due to families like Jan. This film showcases colonialism’s glaring evils and troubled heritage.
Sometimes we need to let go of things that no longer work, in order to move forward. It’s the acceptance of everything one has, everything that one had, and the possibilities that lie ahead. It’s all about finding the strength to embrace life’s changes, to trust one’s intuition, to realize that every experience has value, and to continue to take positive steps forward. For Sweet Dreams, this message is for both the Dutch and the Indonesians that suffered so much during this time.