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Blurring the lines between dreams and reality...


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#1 Paul Burrows

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Posted 21 November 2007 - 06:49 PM

I'm a student of cinematography and I'm currently writing a dissertation on this subject. Primarily, I'm focusing on the transition from reality into a dream sequence. I'm looking at many different examples of this, including; Jacob's Ladder, Wild Strawberries, The City of Lost Children, Requiem for a Dream, Dreams That Money can Buy etc...etc.

What I'm really after is suggestions for achieving this transition effectively, without the stereotypical smoke effects, vignettes etc. Also, if anyone has any further suggestions of viewing/reading material that will help with my project.

Naturally, I'm tackling this subject from the cinematographers POV, and as such I would appreciate any specific technical guidance or information that can be offered.

I'm aware that it's a bit vague at present, but any information that you can provide will be greatly appreciated.

Thanks in advance

Paul Burrows
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 21 November 2007 - 07:02 PM

You may want to read Barry Salt's "Film Style and Technology: History and Analysis". He mentions the earliest appearances of dream sequences and the film grammar conventions that developed for them. In the chapter on the era 1900-1907, he gives an early example of G.A. Smith's "Let Me Dream Again" (1900) where the transition from a dream/fantasy to reality is done with the lens going out of focus inbetween, whereas by 1903 in "Hooligan's Christmas Dream" by G.A. Smith, the dream begins with a dissolve but the abrupt jumping back to reality (waking up) is done with a hard cut. By 1906, the use of a dissolve to signify the beginning of a dream sequence was common.
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#3 David Sweetman

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Posted 22 November 2007 - 04:46 AM

Barry Salt's book was the first thing that popped into my head too, it's really a great reference to see how film grammar evolved. The second thing I thought of was Gondry's film "The Science of Sleep," most people seem to have passed this one by but it's one of my favorite recent films, and a lot of the film deals with the dream-reality thing. Also Mulholland Dr. comes to mind.

With these two examples, (and Wild Strawberries, etc) it strikes me that the thing that makes a dream sequence work is what it reveals about character. What puts the character in the psychological position to have this specific dream at this specific time. Course in film we're putting things into words and images that never are supposed to have either. A dream must be an intensely personal experience, so any depiction of this in film must be a psychological treatment, since we are truly inside the character's head. So in my estimation the transition is to transport the audience from the external, physical world into the character's mind, or vice-versa. Not to get Platonic, but if we accept a body-soul dichotomy, this inner world might actually be a more real place to operate. It must at least be as real.
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#4 Timo Klages

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Posted 26 November 2007 - 10:55 AM

I'm a student of cinematography and I'm currently writing a dissertation on this subject. Primarily, I'm focusing on the transition from reality into a dream sequence. I'm looking at many different examples of this, including; Jacob's Ladder, Wild Strawberries, The City of Lost Children, Requiem for a Dream, Dreams That Money can Buy etc...etc.

What I'm really after is suggestions for achieving this transition effectively, without the stereotypical smoke effects, vignettes etc. Also, if anyone has any further suggestions of viewing/reading material that will help with my project.

Naturally, I'm tackling this subject from the cinematographers POV, and as such I would appreciate any specific technical guidance or information that can be offered.

I'm aware that it's a bit vague at present, but any information that you can provide will be greatly appreciated.

Thanks in advance

Paul Burrows


i cannot give you any books advices right now but imo, the transition effect shouldn´t be visible at all (or if so, it shouldn´t be as clear as smoke/blurring etc...).
it´s about the story and the things in the mind of the character that should make clear it is a dream in the end. also, there are subtles ways to make a scene a little bit "unrealistic" maybe uncomfortable or at least "not normal" in some way for the viewer. but this is not something you need to see but can also be thru sound or whatsoever. i think it is very difficult to make a good dreamsequence without being very "mainstream" so to speak...

well, just my thoughts on this topic ;)

greets,
timo
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#5 David Sweetman

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Posted 26 November 2007 - 03:46 PM

i think it is very difficult to make a good dreamsequence without being very "mainstream" so to speak...

that's why David Lynch is the man
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#6 Freya Black

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Posted 27 November 2007 - 06:56 PM

that's why David Lynch is the man


Best examples for lynch might be Lost Highway and The Alphabet.
Although the former is more about psychological states (this is true of Requiem too of course tho!) it does have a whole transition sequence.

Theres the red room in twin peaks too of course and if you want to push it to hallucination you could look at Rabbits, although theres no transition.

Of course there is An Andolousian Dog and Age of Gold by Dali/Bunuel which are both surrealist films and thus supposed to be full of the logic of dreams etc. Seashell and the clergyman perhaps too, tho none of these have transitions.

Doesn't Freddy Krueger get people in their sleep? The guy with knives for fingers? Maybe I get my horror films confused?

love

Freya

Edited by Freya Black, 27 November 2007 - 06:57 PM.

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#7 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 27 November 2007 - 10:02 PM

Check out an Alain Resnais movie called "Providence":
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0076574/
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#8 A. Whitehouse

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Posted 27 November 2007 - 10:22 PM

Interesting topic. There are lots of good examples but Id like to throw my two cents in for the episode in season 5 of Sopranos which is entirely a dream of Tony's. A little left field maybe but so much is revealed about the character and it was very rewarding to people who had followed the show since the beggining.
Also, and this has to do more with memories, I liked the way that dreams were treated in "The Limey" which used a misaligned shutter effect to create a great smeared high lights look which I found very convincing.
But there are lots of great examples.
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#9 Evan Pierre

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Posted 28 November 2007 - 04:27 AM

Doesn't Freddy Krueger get people in their sleep? The guy with knives for fingers? Maybe I get my horror films confused?


I was about to suggest this :]
First thing thay popped into my head was "A Nightmare on Elm Street," it had great invisible editing between the dream and non-dream sequences (oh man, especially the ending!). You should definately check it out

-Evan

Edited by Evan Pierre, 28 November 2007 - 04:31 AM.

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#10 Hasan Iqbal

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Posted 06 December 2007 - 10:58 AM

I think one of the best dream sequences (or atleast thought to be a dream) was in Rosemary's Baby. I loved the camera moving, it was very errie. Haven't seen it in two years but was better than mot dream sequences. (wild strawberries content was much better though)
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#11 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 06 December 2007 - 11:06 AM

"hasan" you need to go to My Controls and update your User Name to a real first and last name as per the forum rules posted when you registered. Thanks.
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#12 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 07 December 2007 - 03:48 AM

To me the greatest example of capturing a dream, in this case a nightmare, is Apocalypse Now. I have never seen another film do what this film did. Coppola used color, sound, darkness and light to come the closest to anything I've ever seen outside of my own sleeping mind to visualize what I see in my own dreams, not necessarily the content but the look and feel. I've often heard veterans complain that the film was not a representation of what they experienced in country, but I don't think it was ever meant to be, I think it was meant to do exactly what it did, capture a dream and the nightmarish dream was more metaphoric of the conflict. The only problem is, I don't know how you could possibly duplicate the techniques used to accomplish this masterpiece, it is in my opinion art at the highest level, a straight forward story told completely metaphorical, so dense and layered in it's construction that it effects me profoundly every time I see the film which I can only do every so often as it usually takes me a 2 or 3 days to recover from the experience, which rarely happens to me. B)
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#13 Joe Giambrone

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Posted 26 July 2008 - 08:16 PM

There are many examples, but this one struck me as probably not getting endorsed by others: Dreamscape (1984). This film was set mostly in dream worlds, where the bulk of the action took place.
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#14 Bill Totolo

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Posted 27 July 2008 - 10:13 AM

I don't think any discussion on Dreams and Film can be complete without mentioning Fellini's "8 1/2" and the works of Carl Jung.
Look into "Man and His Symbols".
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#15 Tebbe Schoeningh

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Posted 27 July 2008 - 11:43 AM

There is a french movies from the sixties called "The things of life" or something like that. it´s directed by Claude Sautet and the Cinematography is by Jean Boffety. The transgresions from reality to dreams or memory are treated in a very particular way. They would open the diaphragm in take or pull the image out of focus...
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#16 Will Earl

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Posted 27 July 2008 - 03:40 PM

Films that I can think of that might provide interesting viewing with regards to dreams are...

The Cell, Waking Life, Paprika and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

Although I can only remember the internal transitions being of interest in the above films, I can't remember how they transitioned into and out of the dreams sequences.
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