My dreams aren’t normal. In fact, they have the character of B-movies, those extra features you used to get before the main feature. Or even after the main feature, in the days when you could go the cinema at any time, say, halfway through the main film, stay on for the ads, the newsreel (and/or) ‘Look At Life’, the compulsory warning about the need for blood donors (quite a shocking visual for those days, since it involved a child being knocked down by a car), watch the supporting film, and then get to the point, halfway through the main film, where you came in. Some of us were presumably having some sort of post-modern experience with films then – fractured narratives, that sort of thing. The B-movie, all the better for being made on a tight budget, and given an hour time-frame, were often better than the main event. Their passing, like that of flip-sides (or B-sides – another post to come on this), is to be mourned.
Mind you, it strikes me that this laissez-faire, come-and-go-as-you-please attitude to cinema-goers, some of whom could and did stay all day, must have been a fifties and sixties thing. My impression of the forties, when going to the cinema was part of the social fabric, is that it must have been far more tightly regulated (films of film-going always show cinemas as packed). The lax rules on entry and exit must have been to do with the space created by the rise of TV. The cinemas where you could wander in and out were always half-empty, and it felt as if, in Sunderland at any rate, there was a cinema that folded every year (after having been in a seriously parlous condition for some time).
But it’s my dreams that are the issue. For quite some time now, they have been low-budget narratives, with Agatha Christie or Erle Stanley Gardner (Perry Mason) plots, and not a few visits from cowboys and indians, and even snippets of World War Two action: perhaps a visit from Doris Day, if I’m lucky. They have credits, for goodness’ sake. It can’t be long before there is a large sign which says INTERMISSION, allowing me to wake up for about ten minutes. What would Freud have made of it? I don’t seem to have any Oedipal dreams. My dreams aren’t exorcising the psychopathological problems of daily life: they’re just telling stories. Freud, incidentally, is quite good on dreams in stories, and, unusually for a major theorist, very readable (more than can be said for Jung, whose prose I cannot manage at all. I don’t know what he’s on about). Freud points out that dreams in the Bible (say) and in fiction have a particular quality: “The unscientific world… has always endeavoured to interpret dreams… [envisaging] the dream-content as a whole, and seeks to replace it by another content, which is intelligible and in certain respects analogous. This is symbolic dream-interpretation; and of course it goes to pieces at the very outset in the case of those dreams which are not only unintelligible but confused. The construction which the biblical Joseph placed upon the dream of Pharaoh furnishes an example of this method. The seven fat kine, after which came seven lean ones that devoured the former, were a symbolic substitute for seven years of famine in the land of Egypt, which according to the prediction were to consume all the surplus that seven fruitful years had produced. Most of the artificial dreams contrived by imaginative writers are intended for some such symbolic interpretation… The idea that the dream concerns itself chiefly with the future, whose form it surmises in advance – a relic of the prophetic significance with which dreams were once invested – now becomes the motive for translating into the future the meaning of the dream which has been found by means of symbolic interpretation.”
In other words, in fiction, dreams can be decoded. But what is going on in mine? Nothing but learner-director stuff, with cardboardy sets, and creaky adventures. Perhaps I need to go the manager. ‘Hey,’ I’ll say, ‘I want my sleep back. This is the same bleeding feature as you showed last night.’
Perhaps I should go to a dream-DVD shop, and get some new ones installed. Something with subtitles. Something with a bit more surrealism. And with bonus features, say, documentaries on the making of the dream.