Dreaming is trending. Ever since Freudian analysis qualified dreams as “the royal road to the unconscious,” where repressed material surfaces albeit distortion, cinema has taken its toll in deciphering the psychologically submerged. The subject hits screens with Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, crescendos to Dorothy’s spell-bound Wizard of Oz, and explodes in Christopher Nolan’s quadrennial production Inception.
The reason we’re interested in dreams is that we do not understand them but they understand us. Hidden inside manifested content recollected by the individual is latent content bridging the unconscious to our daily life. Decoding the latter may turn repressed urges into solutions, cutting us free from blurry preoccupations subconsciously acting on our conscious life once and for good.
The appeal in dreams is hardly limited to psychoanalysts, but playwrights and screenwriters animate the process through theater and subsequently cinema, giving ordinary people not necessarily what it takes to crack down dreams, but a shortcut to how they function. Films consummate fragmented pieces in someone’s memory and yields a complete example of the person’s experience. Clearly correlating another’s dream with his/her underlying motives does not explain our own, but at least provides a frame of comparison that saves us from seeking the answer in an ocean of possibilities.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream creates layers of parallel realities reversely excused as dreams (I say reverse because the other way around where dreams are taken for reality is more conventionally true). The wedding between Duke Theseus of Athens and Queen Hyppolyta is linearly paired with the heated conflict between King Oberon and Queen Titania of fairyland. In each adaptation, the characters of Theseus/Oberon and Hyppolyta/Titania are played by the same leads. Within the wedding reality is a play within a play where a not-so-stellar cast performs for the royal couple. Within the fairy reality is a magical potion that upon application, makes you fall in love with the first person you see. The effect ends up extending to the wedding, where the whole story turns into entropy which Puck dismisses as “all just a dream”.
Lysander, Hermia, Demetrius, and Helena all waking to “just a dream,” Shakespeare effectively used dream to justify fantastical confusion. On the other hand, The Wizard Of Oz is more straight forward. We simply go inside Dorothy’s head as she travels to the fairy wonderland of every girl’s dream (literally), enduring all the trouble only to find the path home and return to reality.
From her dream, we learn that subconsciously, she prefers family over wonderland because wonderful as it is, foreign territory does not make her feel safe like home.
In a digital era, technology impacts every aspect of life including how we dream. In the case of Inception, sharable dreams allow Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) to infiltrate inside a target’s subconscious and extract valuable information or even better, inject in him an idea that the target will believe is his own. To do so, Cobb taps through multiple levels of subconsciousness and dreams within a dream within a dream within a dream, until he finally finds a ground to execute the invasive duty.
Meanwhile, his endeavor is interrupted by the constant visit of his dead wife Mal, who symbolizes the classic projection of repressed memory.Yet underlying the film’s coated sophistication, Inception partakes in the Wizard Of Oz’s Odyssey. The difference is that while Dorothy succeeds, the spinning totem at the end of Inception leaves us forever wondering whether or not Cobb has ever made it back to his children.