I actually thought when "Inception" came out that I'd be the only
one to come up with the idea of compiling a list of other dream and dream scene
and dream-within-a-dream scene movies. Well, dream on. Nonetheless,
I thought that our staff of cinema savants could still contribute something new
and illuminating to the subject, so I asked my critic colleagues at the Phoenix to select some of their
favorite film dream scenes or dream movies and dream up something to write
something about them.
No one knows their way around surreal, psyche-scarring puppet
insanity like Julie Taymor -- no one, that is, except maybe the
Brothers Quay. And when the two come together to form Team Quaymor, expect a
double-whammy of hallucinatory weirdness. In 2002 Frida Kahlo biopic/fever
dream "Frida" (2002)Taymor's
gold-glitter-dusted impalement scene
suddenly segues into an eerie little Quay
interlude: inside Frida's bruised brain, the hospital operating room transforms
into a curio cabinet filled with chattering, mewling, fleshy-tongued
The essence of dreams in movies for me is most seminally embodied
in the works of Jean Cocteau, especially "Orpheus"
Watching a Cocteau film is about as close as one can get to peering
into another person's sleeping subconscious. Fellini and Bergman too often
imbue their films with similar trippy textures but don't achieve the complete,
hypnotically transcendence of Cocteau.
As far as the dream as a critical plot element goes, "The Wizard
of Oz" (1939)
is perhaps the grandest
and most seamless example. And in horror there's Freddy Krueger and the "Nightmare
on Elm Street" franchise. In those
films, unlike in Christopher Nolan's "Inception," when you die in a dream, you don't
wake up in the real world. You're just dead.
Some favorite dream sequences that I have had the pleasure to see
again recently: The last twist in "Carrie," which may feel old and played out
now, but where do you think it came from? The daydreams of an adolescent Eden
and sex goddesses from the minds of Spicoli (Sean Penn) and Brad (Judge
Reinhold) in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" (1982) And
a very virile (if robotic) Yul Brynner chasing Blythe Danner though an endless
maze of hallways in "Futureworld" (1976).
No one does dreamy/nightmarish like David Lynch. For my money,
his best dream sequence is the one that comprises the first two thirds of
doesn't become clear until that late twist [spoiler!] that Naomi Watts's
wide-eyed ingenue Betty
is just the dream-state projection of real-life failed
actress Diane (also Watts), who has imagined herself having a much more
fulfilling life, one full of intrigue, romance, and still-unspoiled potential.
But the key moment for me is not the shift that takes us out of the dream and
into Diane's depressing reality, or any of the wonderfully
bizarre-but-transporting encounters with sirens, freaks, and strange creatures
during Betty's Alice-like journey through Diane's own personal Wonderland.
Rather, it's the moment within the dream where Betty nails her audition, where
the naive starlet proves herself capable of her own projection into a more
erotic, mysterious persona. In that moment, you can literally watch a star
being born. (Not just Betty, but Naomi Watts, too.) In that moment, you see the
movies revealed as a playground, like our dreams, where we can transform
ourselves, if only for a fleeting moment.
Think "Inception" was an original? Throw back to 1935, and Henry
Hathaway's "Peter Ibbetson."
intoxicated mid-Depression projectile is visually imagined like an old maid's
opium daydream, with a Victorian-romantic narrative that still feels daring:
after being separated as children, Gary Cooper and Ann Harding meet again with
a husband between them, and after he's accidentally killed, Cooper's
unpretentious architect goes to prison for life - but as the couple
ages, they literally and continually meet, forever young, in their dreams. For decades.
No equipment necessary. French critic Georges Sadoul wrote about
this in his famous 1965 reference volume Dictionnaire du films, saying
that "it is difficult to discuss this film without tending to invent certain
details more than 25 years after being burnt by its flame." He didn't
invent much in his synopsis, but the flame is very real. Available on DVD in
Universal's Cooper box set.
Thanks for the contributions. As for myself [PK], I'd go back even further than Michael - to 1924 with Buster
Keaton's silent comedy "Sherlock, Jr." Wrongfully accused by his girlfriend's
father of stealing a watch, Keaton's earnest movie projectionist dozes off
during a screening and enters the film and succeeds not only solving his waking
dilemma but also establishing an ingenious and beguiling fusion of real life
and dream and cinema that has served as a template for all such films to come.