Cinema Club: Dreams (1990)

Posted on July 24, 2013


‘Dreams’ (1990, Akira Kurosawa)

I have a confession. I’m nowhere near as smart as I like to think I am. I remember being five years old, and just starting out in school. I was smart then, so smart that me and Ginny Hopton were practically singled out as the smart kids. The came Primary school, and I was still considered ‘smart’. High school arrived, and whilst the number of actually smart kids grew, I still managed to be considered one of them. Then I left, went to university, and still was thought of as being intelligent. Even now, three years out of academia, some people have this distorted idea that I am a smart guy. Now, I know this all sounds incredibly self absorbed, maybe it is, but I can only go on what I’m told. Truth be told, I’m not smart. I’m actually pretty dumb. This summer I’ve spent a lot of time watching a list of movies recommended to me by someone I respect the ever-loving love out of, and then attempted to write a review of the movie, linking it to something in the lives of everyday people, or something in my own experience. When I pressed play on the screen for Akira Kurosawa’s ‘Dreams’, I fully expected to end it with some contrived rubbish about lucid life and whatnot.

But stuff that. I loved this film, and whilst there was a lot of metaphorical depth to it and a whole host of things hinted-at-but-obviously-yet-subtle, I couldn’t write 750 words about why this film is great. Heck, I can’t even do that about why the film was good. So, first things first, lets just look at what actually happened. The film is one of magic, based on actual dreams that Kurosawa had. This man has peculiar dreams that somehow manage to seem familiar, not in aesthetic but in emotional content. The first of these involves a boy defying the wishes of a woman and heading out to the wood. Whilst here he sees the death like wedding march of a bunch of fox-type people. They see the boy and he runs off. He is then denied return to his home, and is told instead that he must off himself. The kind foxes even left a knife for him. His only hope for salvation is to beg the forgiveness of the foxes. He wanders off in search, and the dream is over.

There are eight dreams in total, and are set in wildly variable places. You have dreams in tunnels, in blizzard raged mountains, Mount Fuji and even the paintings of Vincent van Gogh. All of them involve some form of loss, whether it is the loss of idolatry, the loss of innocence, the loss of humanity of even the loss of life. They are all visually striking in gloriously different ways, making it a film that is lovable entirely for how it looks, regardless of how good the dialogue. ‘The Tunnel’ and ‘Crows’ stand out for me personally in particular.

But again, this isn’t why I loved the film. I liked the film because when the boy in Dream #1 wanders off in search of the foxes, he wanders through a field haloed by a rainbow that is pretty as all hell. I liked the film because I couldn’t take my eyes off the living dolls peach orchard dance thing. The film was awesome because the slow, drawn out fight against death in Dream #3 was gripping. The film stole me because of the sheer sadness in the eyes of the first soldier out of the tunnel, and how beautifully Dream #4 summed up the ridiculousness of war. I loved it because of the colour of van Gogh’s paintings. Christ, I loved it because explosions behind Mount Fuji are beautiful. I adored it because the image of horned monster humans in agony was oddly jarring. Finally, I loved it because of the amount of life that the old man in the final dream displayed, and his child like laugh after recalling how his first love ended. And yes, to quote the bloke, ‘it’s good to be alive’.

And that’s why I loved this film. I loved it because I’d had a nice day of doing not much, and sometimes it is days like those that remind you being alive is pretty awesome. ‘Dreams’ appealed to me in an innocent child like manner, and that is always going to be a wonderful thing.

I almost made 750 words. (744)

Posted in: Cinema, Reviews