A Film-Oriented Dream
Dreamed spring 1980 by William Desowitz
I have often had film-oriented dreams in which I find myself in a movie theater watching a favorite film. But the film in the dream is always an imaginary construct, bearing no resemblance to the actual film. This kind of dream probably belongs to a whole genre that haunts film students like myself, as well as anyone who spends a lot of time watching and thinking about the cinema. One dream in particular which sticks out in my mind. It occurred during the time I was taking a European film course last spring. In fact, most of the scenes in this dream were inspired by specific films I had seen in the course. My dream not only involved film viewing but also the acting out of certain fantasies. Thus I alternated between the active and the passive in what is one of the strangest dreams I have ever had.
The dream begins with a wild sexual encounter right out of A Clockwork Orange (a film I had seen only a few months before in a previous course):I think that most of the dream is easily explainable. The sexual encounter with the two girls is most likely a wish fulfillment, but it is also the displaced memory of what occurred in A Clockwork Orange. An interesting reversal, though, is that it is the girls who are wearing the masks. The scene in which I am watching Marienbad, meanwhile, reveals the strong impact the film had on me, as well as the enjoyment I still receive from going to the movies. As I mentioned before, the flying scenes are displaced imagery from 8½, a film that was also fresh in my mind.
Two lovely blonde teenage girls approach me in some vague exterior setting that is fuzzy. They are wearing red leotards reminiscent of the kind worn by the writer's wife who is raped in the Kubrick film. They are also wearing masks similar to the ones worn by Alex and his fellow "droogs" during the rape. I begin fondling their noses, thinking to myself that they are like wonderful nipples. Unfortunately, this sensuous scene is very brief, lasting what appears to be about a minute. And because the girls are wearing masks, I have no idea who they are.
The dream then suddenly shifts to a different setting. Now I am standing in line outside an unfamiliar movie theater waiting to see Last Year at Marienbad (the first film reference from the European course). I am with two other males, but I do not know who they are either. We seem to be discussing our anticipatory excitement about seeing the Resnais film. Next, I shortly find myself inside the theater watching the film. The theater is dark but I am pretty sure that it contains a reddish interior. The representation of Marienbod on the screen is in black and white, and, oddly enough, it is similar to the actual film: a man and woman, who are both dressed in black, are talking with one another in a dark room. Yet I do not hear what they are saying because they are whispering unintelligibly. This pleasant scene is over in a matter of seconds, and the dream shifts once more.
Now it has turned into a horrifying flying nightmare: I am whirling higher and higher into a pitch-black night. I feel dizzy at first and then I feel a slight numbing sensation all over my body. (This scene is probably a displaced reference to Guido's flying dream in 8½, which I also saw in the European course.) I want to stop flying, but I have no control over myself. I begin to think to myself that maybe this is all a dream, and that it will soon end. But the dream continues.
After what appears to be several minutes, I notice that I have changed locations once more: this time I am in my paternal grandparents' apartment, and I am still flying through the air, hovering just below the ceiling. Then I suddenly begin to fall, and I hit the rug with a tremendous thud. I get up and realize that my grandmother is sitting on the nearby couch in the living room. Thinking that I am now awake, I walk over to her and tell her that I have just had the most realistic flying dream. She asks if I am okay and before I can say anything, I instinctively turn my head in the direction of the bedroom. I see a large and ugly claw slowly opening the bedroom door. Apparently a new nightmare has begun. The door opens all the way and a figure materializes: it is my maternal grandmother, who is slowly coming toward me with this claw sticking out from her right arm. I stare straight at her. but I can't move. When the claw is close to my neck, however, I am able to position it so that it is instead aimed at my paternal grandmother, who is still by my side. The claw moves past me and grabs her neck: but then my maternal grandmother retreats quickly for the bedroom. When she reaches the bedroom. closing the door behind her, she utters one word over and over again: "SHOESHINE, SHOESHINE, SHOESHINE..."
My dream then fades out. As I return to consciousness, I can hear the film title ominously rolling around in my head. I wake up a couple seconds later, open my eyes, and notice that my body is positioned diagonally across my bed, with my head nearly off the bed.
The final surrealistic nightmare with my two grandmothers, however, is more complex. Perhaps their presence reflects my own interpretation of a nervous tension I sometimes sense between them whenever they are together. Now the Shoeshine reference is bizarre because I never actually saw the film; it was merely alluded to in one of the lectures.
SOURCE: Dreamworks: an Interdisciplinary Quarterly (v.2, no.1 (Dreams and Film), spring 1981, p.87-88)
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