–Roy Orbison, “In Dreams”
Were dreams the “virtual worlds” of a previous era? Or at least as Freud understood them to be, as wish fulfilments? In this day and age of “virtual reality” sites such as Second Life, are not all wish fulfilments at our disposal, made manifest instantly? We continue to dream, of course, but dreaming may be just the archaic remanent of a by-gone activity. Old habits die hard. If the post-modern age is post-Freudian, then it also post-dreaming.
In his article, “Feed Me Grapes”, Murray Pomerance gives an astonishing insight into the world of Second Life. For its inhabitants, the “virtual world” has become reality, and “reality” the virtual world. A phenomenological switch has taken place. It puts me in mind of JG Ballard’s idea, apropos of Crash, if I remember correctly, that in the modern age, exterior reality has become internalised and internal life exteriorised.
The images conjured by the participants to Second Life have a remarkable likeness to dream imagery, and yet, they are not dreams. Alternatively, Christopher Nolan’s Inception (2010), insightfully discussed in this issue by Ian Alan Paul, and film that explicitly conjures “dream worlds”, misses the mark.
There is little in the film, or in cinema generally, that equates to the descriptions found in Freud’s patients’ dreams as reported in his landmark study, The Interpretation of Dreams. Either dream imagery has changed radically since Freud’s time, or we are indeed in a new era in which the “dream apparatus “ is being redefined.
For all the longstanding belief that the cinema has an affinity to dreams, a way of replicating the dream experience and mechanism, it rarely turns out to be the case. Even Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali’s fabled Un chien andalou (1929), or Dali’s dreamscape for Alfred Hitchcock’s Spellbound (1945) fall short. The experience they provide us is essentially an aesthetic one, and actual dreams are rarely that.
Yet, Inception may not be so much about dreams and their workings, as about broader philosophical ideas regarding reality and illusion, or, as Paul puts it, “revolving around themes of simulation and meta-reality”. Themes picked up by the Celluloid Liberation Front in “their” analysis of Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s World on a Wire (1973). The respective articles by Pomerance, Paul and the Celluloid Liberation Front are to be taken as a triptych, all, respectively and in their independent and unique way, address the crisis of the “real”.
There is much else in this new issue and we hope you enjoy the range of articles on offer.
On a sad note, we wish to acknowledge the recent passing away of film scholar and long-time Senses contributor John Orr. It was an honour and a privilege to publish his work in the journal. As fate would have it, two of John’s final pieces can be found in this issue. Our heart felt condolences to his wife Anne Orr, who was kind enough to contact us in such tragic circumstances.
Equally tragic, we were also saddened to learn of the death of New Zealand theorist Kathy Dudding. Kathy was a much loved member of the local film history and archiving community. She will be missed.