Documentary Releases: Il Tempo Del Sogno - Dream Time (2023) - Reviewed

Images courtesy of MVD Entertainment Group

It is said that the Golden Age of Italian horror jump started by Mario Bava in the late 1950s throughout the 1960s really began in the mid-1970s with the emergence of such directors as Dario Argento, Sergio Martino and Lucio Fulci.  As evidenced by former Michele Soavi assistant director Claudio Lattanzi’s documentary film Il Tempo Del Sogno – Dream Time chronicling the rise and fall of the subgenre within Italy, that time has long since passed despite renewed interest in the height of the Italian horror genre.  Something of an elongated love letter to a genre Italy took very seriously until it was phased out in the mid-1990s, this documentary film is both educational for newcomers and a real treat for longtime fans starved for new content.

As companies like Vinegar Syndrome and Severin Films take great pains to bring many of these supernatural-demonic gore-infused gialli and/or genre thrillers to domestic viewership, Lattanzi and his camera traveled throughout Italy to conduct newly filmed interviews with everyone from directors Lamberto Bava, Luigi Cozzi and Michele Soavi to actresses Fiore Argento, Marina Loi and Silvia Collatina and composers Fabio Frizzi and Claudio Simonetti.  All in a valiant painstakingly thorough effort to try and make sense of why Lamberto Bava’s Demons is considered both the high point and the coming of the end of the Italian horror empire.  Told with the framework of an investigative horror film as interviewer and co-writer Davide Pulici skulks about the Italian countryside or Roman city brushing with key figures of Italy’s horror past.

Shot handsomely in crisp 4K digital by Marco Testani with original music by Luigi Seviroli, Il Tempo Del Sogno – Dream Time is painterly and picturesque as it navigates old warehouses of promotional materials and Filmirage documentation, directors’ and/or actresses’ homes settling down for interviews.  At one point the camera brushes through makeup artist Sergio Stivaletti’s workshop where we see masks for Demons and The Church on display.  Other times it moves in and out of Claudio Simonetti’s or Fabio Frizzi’s music studios where they enjoy playing some acoustic or keyboard renderings of some of their most famous tracks.  Finally near the end an unlikely detail emerges in conversation apparently Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci disliked each other professionally and came very close to working together on a film that ultimately went to Stivaletti instead.  One must wonder what a union between the two titans of 70s/80s Italian horror would look and sound like.

Very much an Italian release translated for export release later this summer, Il Tempo Del Sogno – Dream Time is at times too academic and chatty but nevertheless sheds a lot of insight and detail onto an area of world horror fans of the genre will eagerly eat up like ravenous zombies.  Detailed, sharp and a bit exquisite in presentation, this tragicomic memoir and farewell to the subgenre that put 70s-80s Italian horror cinema on the world map is at once joyful and poignant.  Davide Pulici’s a craggy if not imposing figure for the film to follow but he’s perfectly suited to this particular brand of Italian horror and serves as a great tour guide through this still largely undiscovered netherworld of horror filmmaking.

--Andrew Kotwicki