Archives / 2008 Sundance Film Festival

Patti Smith: Dream of Life

Director: Steven Sebring

Institute History

  • 2008 Sundance Film Festival

Description

Life isn’t some vertical or horizontal line. You have your own internal world, and it’s not neat.
—Patti Smith

Not vertical nor horizontal nor neat, Dream of Life is a hypnotic plunge, a breathing collage of this legendary musician/poet/painter/activist’s philosophy and artistry that feels as if it sprang directly from her soul. A punk pioneer and spiritual child of Rimbaud, Blake, and Burroughs, Patti Smith’s fierce poetry and rock music shook up New York’s 1970s underground scene, and her work continues to be stirred organically by her rigorous mind, beloved artistic touchstones, and world events.

Shot over 11 years, travels Smith’s mystical interior terrain—the ideas, losses, and memories she wrestles with—as much as tracing her outward adventures. Layered with mesmerizing recitations, music, and narration, the fluid journey incorporates performances, graveyard pilgrimages and political rallies, archival nuggets, and vérité moments with her working-class parents, children, and friends. From raw, intimate sessions in her apartment to formidable incantations delivered to roaring crowds, Smith’s expression is unmediated by pretense or artifice. Remarkably—and this may be the key to her artistic potency—she doesn’t reject death or construct polarities of good and bad. Instead, she embraces darkness and melancholy in a way that’s liberating and also life affirming. As she manifests the transcendent in life, Dream of Life reaches for the ineffable in Patti Smith.

— Caroline Libresco

Screening Details

Sundance Film Festival Awards

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