In a career that spans more than 40 years and includes over 100 films, Dreams Never End was made by Bill Mousoulis just two years into his life as a filmmaker, at the end of 1983. He had already made 14 short films by this time, some home movie in nature, some narrative fiction, and some non-narrative introspective works. Astonishingly, Mousoulis maintained this steady output of filmmaking – consisting of at least one to, at the most, 12 shorts per year, along with feature-length films every so often – for over 40 years. It’s all there online for audiences to view and appreciate, which I highly recommend you do1

And you should because Mousoulis is the true unsung hero of Australian independent filmmaking. Yes, his prodigiousness is breathtaking but, above all, his films shine on because he is a kind of visual poet. Approaching the medium akin to a visual diary, Mousoulis’ films are a window to his soul, reflecting innermost sensations as well as deeply held philosophical viewpoints and insights. It’s no wonder his music idols (amongst others) are Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen; he is their cinematic equivalent.    

At the tender age of 19, Mousoulis made the haunting nine-minute short, Dreams Never End, during his feverish Super 8 period. Even this early, his signature style was evident: a distinct eye for realism tinged with mysticism and poetry, a tendency toward observation and documentation, and a playful and oftentimes ironic approach to the medium. 

Mousoulis’ earliest films were home movie-like in nature, recording family gatherings and celebrations (Family Life [1982], ’82 Into ’83 [1983]) or profiles of individual family members (Doubt [1982], Mary-Go-Round [1983]). Like an ethnographer, his camera during this early period recorded essential details of his immediate environment; in this case, a Greek-Australian family in inner-city Melbourne during the early 1980s. This ethnographic approach has continued right up to the present day with his more recent long-form work, Songs of Revolution (2017), a docu-fictional portrait of Greek radical music, providing a good example.

Mousoulis’ first ever film, Family Life (1982)

But that delicate, poetic, restrained brand of cinematic realism was also evident right from the start. Hidden images revealed themselves to his camera alone. A kind of prelude to Dreams Never End is In a Lonely Place (1982), one of Mousoulis’ introspective non-narrative works alluded to above. Consisting of a handful of immobile shots taken outside and inside the family home accompanied by a pulsing, downbeat score, In a Lonely Place mixes a documentary-style realism with elegiac introspection.

In a Lonely Place (1982)

This four-minute short, tucked away amongst the frenetic, prolific period of the early 1980s, is notable for its distinctive bittersweet poignancy – the sensation of fullness and emptiness, presence and absence, desire and isolation all at once – that Mousoulis captured so precisely with his trusty Super 8 camera. 

Before diving into a description of Dreams Never End, it’s critical to point out the profound influence of European auteurs on Mousoulis’ emerging film practice, specifically Robert Bresson. Bresson’s genius in juxtaposing cinema’s innate focus on the physical world with narrative moments of spiritual revelation, had a formative influence on the young Mousoulis, who has pursued this dialectic throughout his oeuvre. Dreams Never End is an homage to Bresson’s Mouchette (1967), Mousoulis’ favourite film at the time, and is connected to other films that pay tribute to other cherished films, such as 1983’s Christine and Linda go Skating (to Rivette’s Céline et Julie vont en bateau [1974]) and 1984’s J.C.: The Jewellery-Case (to Spielberg’s E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial [1982]). Furthermore, there are other films made during this early period that are also influenced by Bresson (Pretty Naïve [1984], Drive [1985], Physical World [1986]) and by Godard (Melbourne ’89 [1989], A Question of Faith [1987], Knowing Me, Knowing You [1988]), another key influence. 

Christine and Linda go Skating (1983)

Dreams Never End begins with a closeup of Mary (a beautiful, poignant performance by the director’s sister, Mary Mousoulis) gazing plaintively at a crocheted artwork on an interior house wall. The melancholic music sets the tone. A sudden cut to a black sky and a full moon conjures an air of mysticism. Another cut and Mary is standing on the road, gazing out into the distance. The film cuts to the object of her gaze – the end of the street seen in the distance. Mary turns to the front gate and re-enters the family home. A sudden cut to the house’s floor plan and a disembodied hand tracing her path from the front to the back of the house stands in for any actual footage of this movement. It’s a truly whimsical gesture that adds just the right layer of self-reflexivity to the film. 

There are one or two closeups of Mary on the back porch, gazing at objects around her. A series of shots follow: a train flickering past, light dancing on its windows; leaves rustling; a cat stretching; dew on the leaves of a nearby bush; overcast skies and electrical wires. Almost disembodied from Mary’s gaze, this series of shots form an abstract montage imbued with a delicate reverie-like quality. The screen fades to black. 

Dreams Never End

Mary seeing and feeling in Dreams Never End

Suddenly, the film switches gears from fragile introspection to narrative storytelling. A young man named Theo rides his bike down the street. Our protagonist, Mary, is shown walking down the same street. In a brief shot-reverse-shot sequence, they greet each other in passing. Fade to black. In the next shot, we see Theo at his desk struggling with a homework assignment on “Lost Opportunities”. In the following shot, he is on Mary’s doorstep, beseeching her to attend tomorrow’s excursion. Mary persistently declines, stating that she is far too behind in her schoolwork. In the next scene, we see Mary at her desk, a book of maths notes with the name “Jim” in capital letters the focus of her attention. 

Theo and Mary in Dreams Never End

Again, the theme of fullness and emptiness, desire and “missed opportunities” is evoked. Mousoulis highlights his young characters’ lines of desire only to show that they never quite hit their target. 

The following sequence of shots are whimsical and poetic: Mary stares through lace curtains at the outside world; a cut to a crescent moon against a black, night sky. Her dreams and desires fill the universe but remain unrequited.  

Longing in Dreams Never End

Then suddenly the cacophony of shattering glass, the jerk-like rattling of the cinematic frame, and a high-pitched telephone ring. Harsh reality crashes down on tender yearnings. Mary learns of the suicide of Jim. 

In a masterful stroke, Mousoulis cuts to Mary’s feet as she walks back to her room, leaving the viewer to imagine and feel her pain. Night replaces day as the film’s mood shifts. Restless, Mary moves around her living room, in and out of shadows. Her line of sight is unreliable: at one moment a corner of household furniture is there and in the next it vanishes, the void filled with a guitar and a burst of Beatles pop on the soundtrack. 

Beatlemania in Dreams Never End

Mary takes a toy gun and aims at a photo of her child self. The mock death evokes the end of innocence. Then, in another masterful stroke, Mousoulis cuts to Mary staring up at the crocheted artwork on the wall. The film ends where it began. Mary is drawn to the white sailboat in the portrait. This precious object symbolises wistful lightness drifting afloat on an eternal air of hope. At the heart of this ironic, uncanny ending is the haunting truth that in the Mousoulis universe it is often art that uplifts the soul. It offers it lightness, hope and a way forward.      

Art saves the day, Dreams Never End

Prior to Dreams Never End, Mousoulis’ Super 8 shorts had screened at the RMIT Super 8 Club opening screening in September 1983. However, a screening of Dreams Never End at the Fringe Network in March 1984, attended by prominent filmmakers such as Michael Lee, changed everything for Mousoulis. It opened the Melbourne “world” of filmmakers and critics to the young, burgeoning filmmaker, who on that occasion achieved recognition as a visionary director and was embraced by Melbourne’s independent filmmaking community. 

Dreams Never End went on to amass a total of 32 screenings, including locally (the Sydney Super 8 Film Festival and Fringe Festival in Melbourne in 1984) and abroad (6th International Super 8 Film Festival, Montreal, 1985; “Australian Independent Cinema”, ICA, London, 1988; and a tour through US cities between 1985 and 1986).  

Exquisitely constructed, at once mundane and transcendental, mystical and realistic, Dreams Never End shows the power of pure cinema. Uncanny and haunting, it uses image, sound and cutting in a stripped back way to make visible the invisible, moving your heart and soul if you let it.

Dreams Never End (1983 Australia 9 mins)
Dir: Bill Mousoulis

Cast: Mary Mousoulis


  1. See “The Films of Bill Mousoulis: Filmography”, Innersense Productions: http://www.innersense.com.au/productions/mousoulis/films/index.html.