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The Cinema as a Dream and the Dreams of Cinema

The cinema has always been definite from the origins as a dream factory. Up to these days this expression is still deeply rooted in common language: cinema represents the greatest instrument of distraction, the vehicle to make wishes come true including the fairy tale-like ones. Even in its birth there was already an obvious knowledge that there is a relationship between cinema and dreams: if the cinema is used to reproduce the reality, it could also represent the dreams.

In fact the primitive cinema attempted to transpose on the screen the dream and a series of oneiric state such as hallucination, madness and deliria. The cinema offers the same dream to many and shows the ghosts of unreality. Like dreams, the film consents to satisfy the hidden desires which is the consequence of the wavering vigilance upon the external world. Moreover, the film, as dreams is easily forgotten but “retains sediments in the memory, which constitutes our cultural background” (J. M Carroll, 1980).

Several films have trace of oneirism where the dreams are not recognised or where the dream and the reality are inextricable factors. The dream was in the centre of European cinematography from the 20’s and until today it is still utilized by many directors as an artifice in order to increase the expressive possibilities of cinematographic language. When it comes to oneiric approach in films I have recognized three films worthy of a thorough analysis. These are the Un Chiene Andalou by Bunuel, Brazil by Terry Gilliams and La Jetee by Chris Marker.

These three applied dreams in various ways. A. In Un Chiene Andalou the dream becomes a film, but where the reality is represented through the dream; B. In Brazil where the dream is a dream of freedom and vehicle to escape from reality; C. The dream in La Jetee the dream of quietness and through the dream, the protagonist tries to reach an oasis of tranquility. A. The Militant of the Dream in Un Chiene Andalou Through the Surrealist movement the dream has become one of the inspirational sources of the French avant-garde.

However, it had little relevance in the film production of those years. In the commercial production, the dream was utilized prevalently as a simple narrative pretext to introduce a fantastic, irrational, marvellous cinema. There were authors before and after Bunuel who have instead used the forms and the mechanisms of the dream in their non-commercial films without utilizing the dream pretext. It is sometimes difficult in a film to distinguish what exactly is the dream and what exactly is the reality. This is the case of Bunuel’s first film, Un Chein Andalu.

In fact as we learn from the words of the director himself, Bunuel, “It came from an encounter between two dreams” In January 1928 Bunuel visited Dali and suggested they do a film together. They talked about their dreams and decided to use them and other images in a film constructed by free association. Bunuel says they wrote the scenario in 8 days: “We identified with each other so much that there was no discussion. We put together the first images that came into our heads, and conversely, we couldn’t see very well” (Luis Bunuel, 1983)

Until today this film is still reluctant to any unbiased attempt of classification in the genre files, created for explicit confession of authors with “anti-artistic intents”, (Dawn Ades, 1995) instances lent from those expressed in the years ’10’s in the Dadaist riots. “An Andalusian Dog ” gushed at the end of the first two decades of the century to mark with tragicomic virulence the stall of the cultural clime, that on the world scene found its apex in the Wall Street collapse and in the affirmation of the Stalinist regime in Russia.

To the spectators, who were accidentally destined to meet up (i. e. , dragged by friends with the mania of exotic authors in misty d’essai cinema’s seasons), in the sequence of “mutilation-defloration” of the eyeballs and found in themselves the indispensable abnegation to continue the vision of the remaining sixteen minutes, they can assume this theory of frames appearing as uninterrupted collage of spot advertising that could be claimed today by a Chris Cunningham or a Spike Jonze caught in transcendental ecstasy.

If not, the spectators would most probably think of the film, if they were abstinent of a minimal Freudian familiarity, as an act of pure autoerotism motivated by the complete absence of communicative purposes. …the unique nature of Bunuel’s work, attributing it to a creative impulse born of an amazing and yet mysterious loyalty to himself, regardless of cinematic trends; his focus on the moment when images are born in the imagination and his efforts to transform that moment into film; his fascination with things unfinished and how this comes through in his films…(Alain Bergala, 2000)

The writings of Bunuel rather shows how two artists (Dali and himself), were according to an operation of iconographic screening, could reply to the principles (not yet consciously codified as cinematographic language) developed from the point of confluence of the Generation of ’27 literature with the prescription of Surrealist Manifestos.

Illuminating this theory is the observation advanced by Bunuel on the reputation of “Dream imprinted on film” earned over the years: “We used our dreams to express something, not to present a mire. Un Chien Andalou has only one thing absurd, its title”. (Bunuel, Luis) Bunuel denied the judgment that oneiric irrationality was the main pillar of his film. This denial from the director assumes the value of an act of rehabilitation of his own artistic dignity and cinematographic language.

It is a meditated instrument that as Bunuel himself specify, through the representation, unintentionally imitate the dream. It would not be a naive embrace of the casual entropy professed by Breton’s surrealists but it is the recognition of the validity of the new formal potentiality formed by the meeting of Freudian theories and the neo-culture of the Spanish poets that are offered to the author, as personal knowledge, to be artistically exteriorized.

To support this idea we must remember how Bunuel was engaged in cultural debates of those years and that in the same year Dali published the Yellow Manifesto (Catalan Antiartistic Manifesto). The beginning of this manifesto unequivocally and aggressively outlined the new Spanish intellectual lever towards the “rotten ideals” (John Baxter, 1994) of old-fashioned aesthetic symbolists.

Concerned with this view the film takes on a different connotation, the slashed eye scene that could be understood, as the radical caesura made by the new intelligentsia in contrast to the “rotten” poets and of their “decaying” culture as derided by Dali and Bunuel. With this clarification comes the meaning of the puzzling appearance of the donkey corpse on top of a grand piano, a “conviction in effigy” (John Baxter, 1994) of the hated poem “Platero y Yo” (Donkey and I) by the famous Spanish poet Juan Ramon Jimenez.

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