Dreams for Life   (2004, 76 mins, Super-16/Digital)    

Dreams for Life (2004, 76 mins, Super-16/Digital)

Kannava's debut feature, Dreams for Life is an accomplished work about a woman in her late 30s (Maria Mercedes) recovering from trauma.

Minimalist and everyday, the film is poetic and elegant, delving deep into its troubled but beautiful heroine, as she grapples with her past and is challenged by a surprising present, the appearance of a young man (Dai Paterson).

(note by Bill Mousoulis)


“What lifts Kannava's work beyond a kind of suburban neo-realism is a strongly lyrical aura, and an investment in the realm of transfiguring desire. Her films are built on dream-sequences, paintings, music, dance, and a whole, sensual experience of fabrics and textures – a special and intimate 'female aesthetic' proudly claimed .... Kannava is concerned with the small tremors in Ellen's life, the barely noticeable but internally powerful transformations of the spirit. Her solitary gestures of swimming or walking are just as significant as the decisions she must make about relationships. And the film, in its quiet but confident style, embodies this character's 'visionary' experience. Dreams for Life richly extends and fulfils the promise of Kannava's previous work. Cheekily taking its title from a self-help book, Dreams for Life is not afraid to confront the ersatz wisdom of the New Age movement in order to dig deep into the emotional truth of slogans about loving yourself, or coming to the peace with the past. ”
– Adrian Martin, Dreams for Life review, Film Critic, June 2004

“Dreams for Life was a surprising work when it came along in 2004, shifting away from the personal and quirky nature of her previous films, and delving into a more controlled art cinema terrain. In a native and intuitive way, she came up with a quintessential "women's film", like the Sydney films featuring voice-over narration (such as Gillian Leahy's My Life Without Steve [1986] or Susan Dermody's Breathing Under Water [1993]}. But her concerns were never feminist or post-feminist. She was an explorer of humanist and existential states, her cinema one of pain and longing, and the joy that can be found in love and adventure.“
– Bill Mousoulis, Unknown Pleasures program notes

"Dreams for Life is a delicate, deceptively slight and oddly touching reflection on love and solitude and the way the past can
shape our lives. The film is deeply personal and difficult to classify. It struck me as a kind of poem, an aesthetic construct, beautiful, elusive, occasionally obscure, but underpinned by a strong conventional narrative. Maria Mercedes, an actor of compelling presence, gives the film its core of humanity and truth. Aided by the use of classical music and recurring images of paintings and artworks, the film suggests the work of a deeply serious film-maker."
– Evan Williams, The Weekend Australian

“This unashamedly arty film is held together by a number of impressive elements – the fragile performance of Maria Mercedes is one. She has a beautiful, quiet elegance to her; she inhabits the frame of the film so well. And the frame itself is beautifully designed by Jayne Russell, and shot by Firouz Malekzadeh. The film which has been delicately directed with an old fashioned formalism by Anna kannava, is a meditation on loneliness, lost love and lost cultures.”
– Margaret Pomeranz – At The Movies, ABC TV

DREAMS FOR LIFE special page

DREAMS FOR LIFE interview with Kannava

Review by Adrian Martin

Review by Keith Gallasch

IMAGES FROM THE FILM             click to enlarge

Dreams for Life (2004, 76 mins, Super-16/Digital)

Director/Writer: Anna Kannava
Executive Producer: John Chase
Producer: Aanya Whitehead
Director of Photography: Firouz Malekzadeh
Production Designer: Jayne Russell
Editor: Jill Holt

Featuring: Maria Mercedes, Dai Paterson, Don Halbert

Brisbane International Film Festival 2004
Sydney Greek Festival 2005
Down Under International Film Festival 2005 - Best Australian Feature Award
Australian Screen Director’s Association nomination 2005- New Director Award
Australian Film Institute awards entry & cinema release 2005
Annapolis International Film Festival US 2005
Cyprus International Film Festival 2006 Best Feature and Best Actress nominations
Eurocine ‘Fete L’ Europe’ Film Festival 2006 - Brussels, Paris, Strasbourg Eurocine
‘Fete L’ Europe’ Film Festival 2007 - Lyon, Rome, Madrid
Anna Kannava Retrospective, Cinema Nova, Melbourne 2011
Unknown Pleasures, Melbourne 2022

© Anna Kannava Estate 2023