Hollywood is often referred to as the “dream factory”. Although this moniker stems from the idea that Hollywood is where dreams come true, the continued prevalence of mainstream movies and TV shows using dream sequences as a storytelling tool gives it a double meaning.
According to Leslie Halpern’s book; Dreams On Film, the first use of a dream sequence on screen was in Edwin S. Porter’s silent short; The Life of an American Firefighter which was filmed in 1902. The first popular mainstream film to use the dream sequence was Junior Sherlocka 1924 Buster Keaton film.
10. The ambiguity of dream sequences – The Wizard of Oz
Often dreams are used by a filmmaker to create a sense of ambiguity, blurring the lines between fantasy and reality. A prime example of this is the iconic 1939 film; The Wizard of Oz.
To this day, there is still speculation as to whether Dorothy’s home was indeed swept away by this vicious tornado that led her to visit the Land of Oz and encounter the fantastical creatures seen in this film. , or if it was all in his mind. while she was in a coma in Kansas.
9. Using dreams to show a character’s desires – Fancy
The following year saw the first instance of an animated film exploring the concept of dreams. The most iconic segment of the 1940s Fancy is The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.
This segment depicts Mickey Mouse falling asleep, before having a dream in which he is a powerful wizard, able to move the stars at will. This scene is a phenomenal example of a filmmaker using a dream sequence to show a character’s deepest desires.
8. Using dream sequences to unveil plot revelations – Bewitched
In 1945 Alfred Hitchcock Bewitched has been freed. The film’s plot features a character who suffers from dissociative amnesia. Because of this, not everyone in the film knows whether or not he is responsible for the murder of a man named Anthony Edwards.
It is through the analysis of a dream that we see unfolding on screen that his innocence is finally proven and the real killer is arrested. Bewitched is one of the earliest examples of a filmmaker showing a character gathering vital information from a dream.
7. Use dream sequences as social commentary – 8 ½
Federico Fellini was a director famous for using cryptic dream sequences as metaphors to represent his own personal thoughts and opinions. Although Fellini used the dreamlike frequently throughout his filmography, it was arguably the rarest in the 1963s. 8½.
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8½ is a semi-autobiographical film, following a famous Italian filmmaker suffering from a creative drought.
We see a dream sequence play out in the film where the main character of Guido is surrounded by women, who complain and protest that they are sent to live upstairs when they turn 30. A comparison to the Hollywood mentality can be interpreted from this dream sequence as women in the theater industry find it increasingly difficult to land roles as they age.
6. Forcing the audience to analyze dream sequences to discover the true meaning – Ivan’s childhood
The year before 8½ came out, legendary director Andrei Tarkovsky released his first film; Ivan’s childhood. Like at Hitchcock Bewitched, Ivan’s childhood uses the dreams as a means of divulging plot revelations to the audience and characters in the film. Tarkovsky’s 1979 masterpiece stalker does so too, although with more ambiguity.
5. Filmed Nightmares – Wild strawberries
In 1957, Ingmar Bergman Wild strawberries came to the cinema and brought with it one of the first nightmarish sequences seen in cinema. The film’s protagonist; Professor Isak Borg has a disturbing dream that we see unfold on screen.
The dream shows the old man lost and wandering the empty streets of the city, before encountering a disfigured man representing the Grim Reaper. He then sees a funeral procession crashing. When he approaches the open coffin, he is horrified to see himself lying inside before waking up in a panic and thinking about the meaning of the dream he just had.
4. Using dream sequences as a source of fear – freddie
Another franchise that uses the dreamscape as a source of fear is the Nightmare on Elm Street series.
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In these films, Wes Craven tells the story of a character who is only truly powerful in dream reality. The main antagonist of these films; Freddy Kruger relies on putting his victims to sleep so he can then kill them in their dreams. Thus, the idea of dreaming is central to the plot, as are the multiple dream sequences presented.
3. Screen Dream Sequence Analysis – The Sopranos
The Sopranos ran from 1999 to 2007 and told the story of Tony Soprano, a New Jersey mob boss. Unlike the gangster stories that preceded it, The Sopranos avoided genre tropes and told a more introspective story. Much of this introspective storytelling was achieved through the use of dreams.
The David Chase show has given us a plethora of dream sequences throughout the show’s six seasons and it’s not just Tony’s dreams that have been shown either. These surreal, weird and weird sequences were used to show the inner turmoil of several characters in the Sopranos universe. The show’s final season even had back-to-back episodes that played out like an extended dream sequence.
Through the plot of Tony regularly visiting a psychiatrist, the show’s dream sequences would be regularly analyzed onscreen by Doctor Melfi.
2. Represent the disturbing familiarity of dreams – Mulholland Drive
Another iconic filmmaker who has used the dreamlike throughout his filmography is David Lynch. He has used the technique many times over the years, but Mulholland Drive This is where he perfected it. The otherworldly feel of Lynch’s dream sequences in this film is unmatched in terms of derangement, yet familiarity.
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1. Make dream sequences essential – Creation
The plot of Chris Nolan Creation focuses entirely on dream sequences. The idea of exploring dreams within dreams and the instability of that concept gives the film some of its most exciting moments. Nolan also uses dreams as an excuse to create sequences that would otherwise be logically impossible outside of the dreamscape.
To this day, a debate still rages in various corners of the internet as to whether or not Cobb was dreaming at the end of the film or if he was truly reunited with his children.
What do you think? Are there any major pieces of cinema around dream sequences that we missed? Let us know in the comments section below and stay tuned to FandomWire’s YouTube channel for an upcoming deep dive into how Inception uses dreams to tell one of the most complex stories ever. engaged in a film.