The legendary Chelsea Hotel in New York is being turned into a boutique hotel, and its permanent residents have been living in the mess for the last nine years. Dreaming Walls captures the last visible remnants of the hotel’s dark and glorious past.
The Chelsea Hotel is haunted. One of the builders working on its major renovation can feel it. Andy Warhol, Janis Joplin, Dylan Thomas. Artists, musicians, intellectuals. All the greats who stayed at this celebrated hotel are still present in spirit.
But for how much longer? That’s the question directors Maya Duverdier and Amélie van Elmbt seem to be asking. They use archive material to bring the ghosts to life, but the famous staircase is now nothing more than a chaotic construction site: the handful of outcasts and eccentrics still living there, some of them for decades by now, have to fight their way through the pieces of loose plastic hanging down. They look on sadly as this former magnet for the creative avant-garde is transformed into a boutique hotel with a rooftop spa. When it’s finished, few of them will be able to afford living here.
Past and present intertwine as the iconic Chelsea Hotel becomes a jarring symbol of gentrification, and of how capitalism is erasing all the remnants of its dark and glorious past.