Why do we dream?
This has baffled us for eons. What is the function of the dream state? Is it physiological? Biological? Psychological?
I’ve always been very taken with the idea that dreams allow us to process information and experiences that we absorb in our waking life and, through our sub-conscious mind, better make sense of them.
The dream feels real as it’s happening. The emotional connections we make during our sleep state lingers and resonates once we wake up. Recently, I had a dream about a very close friend of mine in which he went out of his way to hurt me. In real life I received a call from this friend the next day and felt a tiny blow of anger upon hearing his voice,
He didn’t hurt me. His dream doppelganger did. Yet it felt real.
In accessing our sub-conscious mind during sleep, we make connections in dreams we sometimes are unable to when we’re awake. Both states become valid. Both reflect back on one another.
I’ve long felt that cinema acts as a kind of waking dream.
You’re placed in a dark room, not much unlike your bedroom at night. In fact, before the picture comes up you’re completely immersed in darkness.
And then… light.
We become captivated. We develop empathy. We’re moved by the images. We begin to reflect back. The sights and sounds are brought to life. The film ceases to simply function as a piece of fiction.
It becomes our dream.
Martin Scorsese spoke on the critical need for visual literacy recently. He takes a stand on the importance of the cinema early on:
“Whenever I hear people dismiss movies as “fantasy” and make a hard distinction between film and life, I think to myself that it’s just a way of avoiding the power of cinema. Of course it’s not life—it’s the invocation of life, it’s in an ongoing dialogue with life.”
Isn’t that what our dreams are, an evolving discourse with life? And isn’t that a beautiful summation of the power of cinema as an art form? Art is able to provide an emotional catharsis. A release. It can speak to our hopes and fears in a way that ordinary language cannot.
In discussing Roberto Rossellini’s neorealist masterpiece Paisan (a personal favorite and pictured above), Scorsese writes, “I was experiencing the power of cinema itself.. And I was also seeing that cinema wasn’t just about the movie itself, but the relationship between the movie and its audience. It’s like seeing reality itself unfolding before your eyes.”
Reality itself unfolding before your eyes. I like that.