The beginning of any film is the key to its world, a threshold that takes the viewer to a universe whose prevalent atmosphere can be discerned. The beginning of Dubliner promises an unusual and special experience. Single fluid images of different places and times are juxtaposed to introduce the audience to the geography of the film to help them find out who the female character who is talking warmly on the phone is, what she is doing there, and who the people she names or talks to are. These include images of the harbor, inside houses, streets and alleys, some in the dark at night and some during the day. After this brilliant introduction which is complemented by music, the film begins with scenes from a desert.
The desert scenes, accompanied by an Arabic song sung by a woman, seem to be presented from an omniscient point of view, and at the same time from that of a traveler or a stranger, and are intended to gradually take the viewers from the desert rural regions to the city. Upon arriving in the city, another female singer is heard singing in English thus underscoring the change of the environment from rural to urban. Without attempting to define the identity of the city, Linda Rosenfeld, the writer and director, depicts the city in the same tone as before, but with a different rhythm, and without using the common methods of approaching a character, she abruptly lets a man the audience does not know show up reminiscing his good old days and expressing his regrets today. The filmmaker hence confirms her film is going to be a purely experimental one.
The film is constantly on the move, from one location to another, and therefore continuously changing like a boundless journey with no particular destination where one gets to see and pass streets and roads, people, houses and parks, landscapes, seas, and mountains. And in this constant movement, the filmmaker awakens and evokes emotions that can only be experienced through this form: feelings of yearning and liberation that comes with living a nomadic life. The search is not going to stop since what is lost is not to be found. In this world of single lonesome individuals, the viewer is also journeying again and again, and consequently, longing for the place they have just moved away from. The filmmaker delicately connects the images, maintaining coherence between the scenes via soundtracks and conversations. As a result, all the places are subtly joined in a row.
The cleverly crafted beginning of the film keeps the audience away from the main subject by envisioning its experimental universe for ten minutes until Steve's life is featured. Up to this moment the viewer is led to believe they are about to watch a feature film, but they suddenly realize this universe is real and the film is a documentary. Rosenfeld smoothly changes the tone and discloses the main subject. Steve's father talks in his son's favorite pub about his son and what made him a special human being. Steve was a man who loved life, loved to travel and explore places and loved to explore things and undergo hardships only a few were willing to experience. Through Steve's photographs, and his father's memoirs we meet someone who is fascinating enough to be a hero.
From this point on, the film starts to experiment with more or less common techniques used in documentary filmmaking such as interviews with various people about Steve. But the main difference between the film and the familiar Talking Heads methods is that it combines the interviews with images of the surroundings, the city, and old photos. At the same time, by alternating between the interviewees and places, from the bright house of one of the interviewees to the darkness of a pub, and then to Steve's family photos on the wall of his father's house, the filmmaker neither lets the original rhythm of the film decline nor allows stillness to replace movement.
She also changes the subject of the discussions, and in doing so conveys the moves and shifts to the concepts.
As the narration goes from Steve's favorite writers to another subject, the images change from Europe to Egypt, too, resulting in the creation of a thorough portrait of Steve’s multidimensional character and life.
Dubliner teems with pictures and sounds. It is brimming with visual and verbal descriptions of the life of a man in love with life, and those who have loved him dearly, and with spectacular and varied images of whatever made his world. Linda Rosenfeld successfully combines these raw materials, achieving amazing results in experimental documentary filmmaking. She makes all the moments, even the seemingly unusable moments of everyday life, a part of a dazzling whole, and the secret of her success lies in this combination--a difficult, time-consuming, and precise task that requires loyalty to the“experimental”in the strictest sense of the word. Dubliner sparkles with brilliant moments that showcase talents of a gifted filmmaker every time it is watched.