(Kal Ng, Hong Kong/Canada, 1999)


Kal Ng’s Dreamtrips is an appealing reverie on virtual-reality journeys of the imagination.

It refers less to the contemporaneous sci-fi manifestation of this theme (eXistenZ [1999], The Thirteenth Floor [1999], Dark City [1998]) than to a much older tradition of experimental and mytho-poetic cinema, such as the films of Maya Deren (Meshes of the Afternoon, 1943) – leading, in the computer age, to cyber-fables such as Chris Marker’s Level Five (1997).

Jenny (Jennifer Chan) pines for her absent boyfriend and muses on her displaced identity that has been formed across two cultures, Hong Kong and Canada. Entering a VR program called Dreamtrips that reads her unconscious memories, needs and desires, Jenny wanders cities and deserts, encounters herself as a child, grapples with her elusive lover, and seeks counsel from a bunch of enigmatic strangers.

This is not a thriller, but a whimsical, lyrical piece that sometimes indulges corny, New Age platitudes. Several of the secondary, non-professional actors are truly awful. But the film’s strength is in Kal’s sharp eye, and his keen sense of place and mood.

© Adrian Martin February 2000

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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