Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Dream a little dream

Okay, for the record, I really liked "Inception."  I am not immune to the critiques (this one is pretty devastating), but I still thought it was a clever and tightly executed film.  Even if you found it somewhat annoying, I encourage you to read this short essay, suggesting the entire film is a metaphor for filmmaking.  But it's got me thinking about the portrayals of dreams in film.  The dream world of "Inception" didn't seem particularly dreamlike.  Events and characters may have seemed improbable, but it was often easy to mistake the dream world for real life.  That, of course, doesn't square with my own dreams, which seem almost entirely incoherent in hindsight.

Anyway, just the other day, I finally saw David Lynch's "Mulholland Drive" (2001), a film which may be entirely a dream.  It's a stunningly beautiful and engaging movie, but ultimately has very little in the way of a coherent plot.  To the extent the plot can be followed, it completely unwinds in the final 30 minutes of the film.  I tend to think that the film is being told from the point of view of Naomi Watts' character Diane Selwyn, largely in the form of self-serving fantasies, erotic dreams, and nightmares, as she recalls her experiences since arriving in L.A.  At any rate, as frustrating as this may be as a film, it strikes me as a pretty solid depiction of dreams, which are incoherent, unreliable, terrifying, and thrilling.

All this has me thinking more about "Dreamscape" (1984), a reasonably compelling sci-fi thriller.  If you haven't seen it, it's about a man (played by Dennis Quaid) who can enter the dreams of other people and help them overcome their fears.  And there's a rival (David Patrick Kelly, playing the same sort of nutjob he played in "Warriors" (1979), only this time with psychic powers), who can also enter people's dreams, but does so to kill them, which, it turns out, kills them in real life.  They end up fighting each other in the dreams of the president of the United States (Eddie Albert), whom Kelly is trying to assassinate.  
Although the film comes off as relatively typical action fare, it has some unusual twists.  (For example, Eddie Albert is introduced as a widower suffering nightmares associated with nuclear war; we don't learn until later that he's the president.)  And the dreams, in particular, actually look a bit like dreams.  They contain haunting images and emotions, and usually aren't heavy on plot.  The president's dreams are quite terrifying, as I recall -- particularly one showing a post-nuclear ghost town filled with the angry whispers of wounded children that ultimately become indistinguishable from an air raid siren.

What other good dream films are out there?


Eric Rubin said...

wanna read my screenplay? its about a secret government program that messes with everyone's dreams in an attempt to keep us down (work, spend, work spend, work spend - corporate domination) and mix up the true message our subconscious is trying to send to us.

this is the reason our dreams are so weird, right? because the government is sending messages through the air that infiltrate our minds while we sleep.

its up to a brash new president who promised change on the campaign trail (he learned of the new program the first day being POTUS) and a group of teenage conspiracy theorists who stumbled upon the program but had very little proof of its existence.

the question is, what happens if you turn off the dream mixing machine. will we all stop being sheep (work, sleep, make money, spend) and begin to follow our true passion? will the world as we know it end (economic meltdown) without the dream mixing machine running because instead of going to work at a job we hate, will we go take a drawing class or climb a mountain?

P.S. This idea is copyrighted, so fuck off everyone!

p.s.p.s. I need a better name than dream mixing machine

Jenn said...

Well, this might just be because I hail from Kansas, originally, but I have to throw in a vote for The Wizard of Oz.

Seth Masket said...

Jenn, wait, that was a dream?