I will be making a short surrealist film based on my subconscious, using a vast range of visual, editing, and sound techniques to recreate the feeling of being in a dream and avoiding mainstream Hollywood representations of dreaming.
I will be making a short film based on surrealist techniques exploring and replicating my unconscious mind and dreams. My film will be in a non-linear structure, jumping between ‘realistic’ scenes and abstract visuals, representing different stages of sleep. The aim of my film is to recreate the feeling of dreaming: exploring the outskirts of reality without extreme obscurity.
I will be making a short film using surrealist conventions exploring dreams and the subconscious. The theoretical inspiration for my film comes from the original surrealist movement and the concept of channelling ones subconscious mind into a form of art, be it painting, photography or film.
A famous surrealist film artists is Bunuel; the writer of Un Chien Andalou and ‘The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie’. It is documented that Bunuel and Dali sat down together one day and discussed the dreams they had the night before, and decided there and then to make them into a film (Un Chien Andalou).
This idea appealed to me as a creative way to inspire a film, and I will be keeping a diary of my dreams to use as ideas for my own film.
My research developed from looking into surrealism, into exploring films about dreaming and the subconscious, their relationship with surrealism, and most importantly what sets them apart from surrealism. I was able to draw a relationship between the two in some cases, such as ‘Inception’ which I felt was clearly a film about dreams, yet featured some surrealist concepts about the subconscious within it, such as the visual manipulations of the architecture within the film which I felt mirrored the manipulations seems in Dali’s ‘Clocks’ painting.
I did however find that the films about dreams that I focussed on generally had other discourses running through them, for example the idea of technology being used to ‘invade’ dreams reflects on current debates about technology and how it has the potential to invade and destroy the private sphere.
Despite my film being based around my dreams and subconscious, I am not interest din weaving different discourses into the plot and am more interested in creating an abstract piece of film that looks directly at the subconscious, rather than the real world that surrounds it. The most important factor of the film to me is to generate a strong feeling in the audience that they are immersed in a dream like world. I want to replicate the feeling that one has when they’re dreaming, where they know that something is different, but it doesn’t seem as strange as it would in reality. My film will follow a non linear structure, in an attempt to replicate the disjointedness of dreaming and abstract visuals in intervals throughout the film to signify the ‘non dream’ time while you are sleeping, or the time between dreams that we do not remember when we wake up.
‘I thought that dream space would be all about the visual, but its more about the feel of it’
To create this atmosphere, I will be using a large range of filming techniques, editing and a lot of focus will be on the sound. I am still yet to pin down exactly what these techniques are, but am in the process of researching and trial testing.
Following on from my previous post discussing the relationship, or more appropriately, difference between films about dreams and surrealist dreams, i felt it was important to look into the work of David Lynch.
‘The surrealistic element of Lynch’s work is so obvious because for him the process of film-making or any other form of art is a purely subconscious process. Cinema for Lynch is the act of turning a dream into a film by showing the seeming absurdities of the dream world in normal circumstances. For this he uses fragmented narrative and plenty of nightmarish, dream-like images. Distinct Lynch trademarks are fire, highways at night, smoke, flickering lights and various deformities.’
David Lynches approach to his film making mirror what I want to create through my own film. The focus of my project is to create a surrealist end piece, but explore the subconscious, and obscurity of dreams within it.
I was asked to think about the difference between films that are made about dreams and surrealist films that use dreams as a base.
When picking apart films about dreams I looked into what discourses they followed, as discussed in a previous post, one discourse that i felt was prevalent in Inception and Paprika was technology. This then lead me to look into how films about dreams, despite being about an exploration of the subconscious, actually focus most predominantly on social issues. As mentioned, technology is a hot topic in society in discussion of how technology affects human relationships and every day life.
In Inception, the subconscious is used as a tool to access information needed for an illegal business deal, ultimately ending in a son giving away his fathers empire. Although as an audience we are on the side of the character using technology to penetrate the sons subconscious, the film highlights the ever present, underlying societal fear of technology, as does the concept of ‘dream terrorists’ in Paprika, using people’s minds against them. I feel this touches on the public vs. private debate, and how technology has eliminated the private sphere through social networking, reality television and location detectors. Through over-sharing on twitter etc. users are revealing thoughts that previous to social media, may have remained internalised thoughts, therefore it could be argued that even the mind: the ultimate private sphere has been infiltrated by technology. If the conscious mind is no longer private, that ultimately leaves the subconscious mind, and therefore dreams as the only truly private sphere.
The films mentioned above explore the idea of the subconscious – the final private sphere being invaded, publicised, and used against us.
Another film relevant to my ‘catalogue’ of dream films is Paprika; a film based around dream therapy; in which the main character uses a device called the ‘DC mini’ to enter peoples dreams as her alter ego (Paprika) to analyse and cure their mental ailments. The DC mini is stolen by ‘dream terrorists’ who use the device to invade peoples dreams and cause them to commit suicide or go insane by planting ‘subconscious thoughts’ into their minds, similar to that in ‘Inception’. Throughout the film, the distinction between the dream world and the real world becomes blurred, creating a similar disjointed feel to films of the surrealist movement. However, I feel ‘Paprika’ leans more heavily onto the ‘film about dreams’ side than surrealism.
Although the film delves into the exploration of dreams and the ‘dream world’ through its visual and conceptual techniques, there were other aspects of the film that I felt were challenging different discourses. One very apparent discourse to me was that of technology vs. ‘organic matter’ (the mind).
When Detective Konakawa, a patient suffering from recurring nightmares, seems surprised to see Paprika in the site radioclub.jp, Paprika asks him “Don’t you think the Internet and dreams are very similar?” I felt this resonated with popular views about of the relationship between identity and the internet; on the Internet,we experience anonymity and we have a chance to create our own reality; free of restrictions on time, space, physical image, personal background, etc.“The Internet and dreams are the means of expressing the inhibitions of mankind.” (Paprika)
The film also plays with the idea of the dream world and reality merging, similar to the plot of Inception. From my research so far, this concept seems more apparent within films about dreams, than in surrealist works, which more often use dreams as inspiration rather than a determining plot to the film.
When researching examples of contemporary takes on surrealism, I came across this video essay about Christopher Nolans ‘Inception’.
Although the film contains mostly hollywood style conventions, the concept of the characters consciously entering a dream state, and manipulating their own subconscious brings to mind Dali’s experiments with his subconscious. Unlike more traditional surrealist work, in which the artists try to represent the obscure and disjointed parts of their subconscious, Nolan looks into the possibility of controlling your own subconscious,
‘The rabbit hole between these worlds of consciousness turns out to be the lucid dream, where people become aware that they are dreaming and can influence what happens within their self-generated world.’
Despite the lucid dream state that Nolan is epitomising in Inception, he still incorporates the disjointed elements of dreaming, for example when the main protagonist asks his colleague how she arrived at the cafe they sitting at, she is unable to tell him, in my opinion successfully replicating a real dream. The unpredictability of the subconscious is also represented in Leonardo Dicaprio’s inability to keep his dead wife out of the dream worlds that he and his colleagues are creating, despite her tendency to jeopardise his plans.
Although the concept of the film is extreme and hollywood-ized I feel that the contemporary approach to surrealism and exploring the unconscious mind is more relatable to the average person than the extremely obscure work of Dali or Bunuel. One reason behind this may be that the special effects technology allows for a more realistic representation of dreams than in dated surrealist films such as ‘Un Chien Andalou’. Or perhaps, the discussion of the lucid dream state in Inception makes the audience more able to relate and understand what Nolan wants to convey. Howver, it is impossible to compare the films on an equal level as the approach is so different: Bunuel and Dali based Un Chien Andalou on their own subconscious dreaming, which is unique to every individual whereas Nolan is exploring the concept of dreaming on a broader and less individual scale.
Today I started practicing with my edits for the “night drive” shots. The footage was shot on a Canon 60D and edited in Premiere. To create the final effect, I layered two of the same video clips on top of each other, then reversed the first clip and changed it to a 40% opacity. I then adjusted the brightness and contrast of the footage to create a sort of old style overlay. To create the kaleidoscope effect I used the mirror effect in premiere on both clips. The audio for the clip is ‘Dreams’ by Nuages which is what I plan on using for the final piece.
For the next shoot, I will be hiring a shoulder grip to try and control the camera shake as I felt it was distracting in the final product.
Sigmund Freud believed that dreaming was a result of the contents of the unconscious constantly trying to break through into the conscious mind. During the day, while we are awake, the ego protects the conscious mind, however, when we sleep, the egos guard is let down and does ‘dream work’. During this ‘dream work’ the ego disguises the thoughts form the unconscious using symbols; some examples being:
- Powerful figures (Royalty, Doctors etc.) represent the mother or father
- Vermin represents Siblings
- Water represent birth
Freud believed that the act of turning the unconscious thoughts into symbols means that we are not disturbed, and therefore can continue to sleep.
Freuds theory of symbols in the unconcious is that they are broken into two categories: Universal symbols, which I have listed a few of above, and Perosnal symbols: things that can only be understood by knowing something about the experiences and personality of the dreamer.
Salavador Dali is a surrealist artist, well known for his ‘The Persistence of Memory’ painting: an illustration of how useless, irrelevant and arbitrary our normal concept of time is inside the dream state.
Salvador Dalí was very interested in Sigmund Freud’s writings on psychology which revolutionized the way people think about the mind with his theory of the subconscious. The subconscious is the part of the psyche that thinks and feels without the person being aware of those thoughts and feelings. According to Freud, dreams are coded messages from the subconscious (To be continued in next post). Dali was interested, and in fact very committed to exploring Freuds theory on dreams through his art. It has been written that Dali would sit in the sun on a lazy afternoon with a metal bowl on his lap, loosely holding a spoon with his hands crossed over his chest. When he fell asleep and relaxed, the spoon would fall and wake him up. Dali would reset the arrangement continuously therefore leaving him in a constant state of not quite asleep and not quite awake while he painted the images he is so well known for. Dali used other methods to induce hallucinations, such as standing on his head for substantial amounts of time.
Dali’s ‘Dream, Caused by the Flight of a Bee (Around a Pomegranate, a Second Before Waking up’, as suggested in the title, is a piece based on his dreams, and painted whilst in one of his ‘dream states’