Movies and Dreams
Movies and dreams have a lot in common. In my dreams I always see myself as a character, going on adventures that would otherwise be impossible in reality. The more impossible the adventure, the better the dream. Typically I find the more realistic dreams to be boring or scary, depending on the subject matter.
For the most part, my taste in dreams is the same as my taste in movies. Fantasy and sci-fi are great, but even the most run-of-the-mill stories about real people in real situations can seem totally farfetched when you look at the scale of the drama or the action that occurs in the story. (I’ve been watching a lot of action movies lately; the amount of shooting and explosions that occur in any one of them is usually way beyond realistic.) Movies can also have a dream-like look that separates them from reality.
There are some pretty good movies out there that are about dreams, memories, and other places we can only go to in our minds. Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind (2004) and The Science of Sleep (2006), both directed by Michel Gondry, explore minds that are having trouble keeping their grip on reality. The everyday sort of feeling, the realism, that films normally give us breaks down into a visual representation of the mind. In Eternal Sunshine, this means seeing a man visit his own memories, becoming both a spectator and a participant as they merge, break down, and are eventually erased. In The Science of Sleep, it means seeing a man in a world that is both real and dream, the only distinguishing factor being the elaborate and artistic, truly beautiful scenarios he gets into when dreaming. On first viewing of these films, especially Science of Sleep, you may find yourself trying to differentiate what is real and what is not, but that is hardly the point of them at all. In film everything is both real (the actors and sets and materials are in front of the camera, being recorded) and not real (the stories are made up, the special effects simulated), substantial, but intangible, just like our dreams.
Movies are not just about the dreams we have when we’re asleep, but the ones we have when we’re awake: our aspirations and hopes, fantasies and wishes, or sometimes even our dread and fear. When we watch movies, we get to experience what we normally can’t in our own lives by identifying with characters that are involved in impossible stories. Whether the ending is happy, sad, or bittersweet, if the story is to our liking, we are thrilled every time. The subtleties of a movie, like the editing and cinematography, are often harder to appreciate directly, but they can still appeal to us on a level we are not quite conscious of.
Today I saw a movie called Ink (dir. Jamin Winans, 2009). It was about dreams and nightmares, but even when the story hadn’t taken you into a world of dream, the film still looked like a dream. From the very beginning, shots were purposefully overexposed, making characters glow and glint as they walked down the street. Color was constantly changing between dream, nightmare, life and memory. At the beginning, there was nothing but strange, seemingly unrelated images flashing before my eyes, but slowly everything started to come together, the way you might have to think of something to explain a connection between two unrelated parts of a dream. It was a very artful film, where story was secondary to visual aesthetic, but I enjoyed it nonetheless, because I found it to be a more realistic depiction of a dream-like world.
An upcoming dream movie that I’m excited about is Inception (2010), directed and written by Christopher Nolan, who also gave us the exceptionally confusing but brilliant trip into the mind that is Memento (2000).Feel free to leave your thoughts and your favorite dreamy films in comments.