“Man is a genius when is dreaming.”

Akira Kurosawa

During the nineteenth century, philosophers, poets and romantic artists who opposed the age of enlightenment and reason had in mind the apprehension of knowledge through dreams. These authors and theorists claimed that the dream component had a meaning related to irrationality.

At the turn of the century, a new scientific current was born – the psychoanalysis. This science would show a profound influence on the artists of that time who saw in this science a response to their visual creations. Freud’s theories propagated and dream took the key role in the visual arts of the twentieth century. Over time, artists would become preoccupied with the representation of dreams in various artistic expressions: cinema, painting, photography, sculpture, etc. Thus, the idea that the dreamwork – that is, the process in which the unconscious produces the dream would be similar to the process by which the artist creates metaphors and symbolic forms.

There were some who went so far to say that cinema would be the best form of dream representation. Salvador Dali and Luis Buñuel shared the idea that, “in the film are amalgamated the aesthetics of surrealism with Freudian discoveries … the film is directed at the unconscious feeling of man”. In such a way that a series of disconnected images would be produced in the film, suggesting a transformation by condensation just like the oneiric component.

The film became a space capable of experiencing the Freudian theories, transforming itself into a visual dreamlike symphony. Based on this concept, the structure of the film obeyed to some rules regarding our unconscious mechanisms. The cinematographic device would then be seen as technical prosthesis capable of prolonging our psychic apparatus, allowing the elaboration of a visual culture dominated by the ghost of dream.

It seems, however, important to note that cinema is not an equivalent to dream. The dream is born of an absence of perception opposing to cinema in which images are formed with a reality from the perception. Thus, cinema only reproduces the impression of a reality, an impression resembles to the one that develops in the dream.

In the article En sortant du cinéma, Roland Barthes tells us about the experience of the spectator in the movie theater, making a parallel with the subject who sleeps and dreams. The author points to the predisposition of the viewer in the cinema that before reaching the room shows to have the conditions gathered to be hypnotized. The immobility of the subject in the chair of the cinema, the inertia and the very darkness of the room consolidates this metaphor between the viewer’s posture in the movie theater and the sleeping subject, that seems to plunge in a state of confusion between dream and reality.

The curtain falls, the movie theater is filled up with light again. It’s time to leave and as Barthes says:

“(…) he likes to leave the cinema (…) heading towards some coffee, he walks silently (he does not like to talk right away about the film he has just seen … his body has become somewhat calm, peaceful: soft as a sleeping cat (…) “.


BONUS: If you are particularly interested in this subject, there's a lot of movies that explore
the concept of dreams, such as: Le Rêve d'un Maître de Ballet; Spelbound; ; Eraserhead;
Stalker; Santa Sangre; Dreams; Waking Life; La Science des Rêves and Inception.


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