We are such stuff as dreams are made of,
And our little life is rounded with a sleep.

Shakespeare, The Tempest

quoted in

THE LITTLE RED TRAM

a letter from a spectator

...It strikes me as odd that the kind of subject matter of Tram is now found almost only in film. I suppose, in a very crude way, it could be said that Tram is a kind of "social history".

Today... such an examination seems to occur only in films (Mike Leigh, Ken Loach, and New Iranian Cinema...). Those gestures, those human observations, find themselves on the big screen. I'm not quite sure why. Perhaps because television has expelled reality?

But this is only one part of Tram, yes? It's a fascinating part as the history in question is really a key period — of a quiet revolution, of an absolute shift, the end of two eras. It isn't the high drama of Cold War flashpoints, but the complete melt. And this period is also perhaps, for you and I, the years that have had the most influence on us as they cover our adult lives. It seems to me that the film posits things in terms of 10 year cycles (this might be accidental or coincidental) - particularly 1991 and now (and then 1991 and the first marriage, which was in the early 1980s). Ten years isn't much... yet it is so much, and for the main characters it’s the journey from vibrant youth to slight world-wearyness. This ten years seem so near, yet are so far.

In terms of the idea of "social history"... the film suggests to me that despite the movements of history, somehow the personal struggles remain the most defining, the most important. And this is the most relevant subject too — this unanswered question of how we understand history, what it means, how we go about recording it. All the old answers to these questions now no longer work.

I love the vastness of the film — in terms of the Siberian scenes, but also the provocative "soundscape". You film in such a way so as not to flinch from the vastness — but only once or twice is the composition used to illustrate the vastness. The protagonists in these landscapes aren't like the pictures of the German romantics (Friedrich, for example) — their relationship with the landscapes isn't one of being dwarfed by the landscapes. The intimacy of the film — and of the music, of course — is somehow running in parallel to all this, not against it. What remains are the details of the human struggle, the psychology of the character, despite the drama of the landscapes and locations. In Tram there's a kind of frisson of ambivalence throughout because of this arresting dynamic. Also the ambivalence of youth in age, of these people revisiting the past — revisiting their younger selves. I recalled our conversations about the idea of music and youth. This is still central, but buried deep within the film. So the idea of a "tram" seemed to me not to be a metaphor, but to denote a literal journey, between the communities, between the locations of the film. Epic spaces and intimate gestures.

And the dream-like element to the film... do you see the reality in the dream here (is the reality dreamed?), or is the reality itself a kind of dream? In the latter case, the reality has the intimacy and familiarity which makes it feel so, and is drawn from these honest, human portraits. The DV (?) texture of the film is dream-like too, and the mobile camera which sometimes seems to float. The reference to The Tempest added another level to this question — and a new context for the story of the protagonists too, they are such stuff as dreams (such as this film) are made of.

B.H.