The Films of Henry Jaglom: A Safe Place

Last night… in my sleep… I dreamed that I was sleeping. And dreaming in this sleep that I had awakened… I fell asleep.

Susan. Noah.

Two sides of the same woman. Full of life. Caught in a dream, longing for that safe place. That place which we are all familiar with, where our memories and dreams seamlessly flow into one another. She knows of this place, and swears that once, she flew. She did fly.

Her boyfriend, Fred. He cares for her. But he’s not sure what to make of her. Her spirit is free. She’s not bound as he is by science and logic. It seems that he is incapable of wonder, uninterested in the mysteries of the world around him. At one point, he crashes a seance by denying the spiritual realm and offering up scientific explanations to the phenomena that has just occurred.

And then there’s Mitch. He’s everything Fred could never be. Sexy, confident. A dream lover. And, yet, somehow these men are unable to offer fulfillment.

Except for one. A magician. A guide on Susan/Noah’s ethereal journey. He offers wisdom and humor, and his only wish is that he could make something – or someone – disappear. He listens to her, and Susan/Noah takes comfort in his avuncular presence, his magic, and his words.

In this world, populated with lost souls and relics from the past, Susan/Noah will face an uncertain – and possibly tragic – future.

Henry Jaglom has crafted a beautiful tone poem with A Safe Place. It deserves a place among the likes of Robert Altman’s 3 Women and Ingmar Bergman’s Persona – two films that masterfully blur the line between dreams and reality. Tuesday Weld is magnificent as Susan/Noah. There is an innocence and vulnerability that she gives this woman that makes you genuinely empathize with her. As Fred, Phil Proctor (in his first role) is both lovably goofy and tender. Jack Nicholson lights up the screen, throwing himself into the role of Mitch. And Orson Welles as The Magician – probably one of the most memorable characters that I’ve ever seen on film. The image of him slowly pulling a rainbow out of a box has become iconic for lovers of Jaglom’s work.

Jaglom is a master at exploring the inner lives of women on screen, and with A Safe Place, he did exactly that – giving us one of the best and most intellectually challenging films of the seventies. It is a film of great importance that every woman should see. It is a stunning work of art that predicted the greatness to come.

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