Dreams Depicted in Film



As I have been looking beyond just drawings to try and recreate/represent the workings of the mind/memory, I thought I should also look into the techniques used in films.

I especially wanted to focus on the techniques of earlier film, where artists and cinematographers would have to rely on physical film and their own hands to construct these moving images.

I thought that it would be interesting to observe how other people visualise the ‘invisible’ – what techniques would they use? how abstract would it go? how would they represent the movement and rapidness of thoughts/dreams? would they show rapid movement? how would the thoughts interact with each other? would they interact with each other?

Dreams are thoughts that we encounter and experience in an unconscious state – they are free to ‘live’ and move in a way that suits them best, unlike in our conscious state where we partially dictate and affect the way they are organised.

“DETOUR” (1945) – EDGAR G. ULMER [–6a4]


  • scene from [00:29:00-00:30:00]
  • the moment the man goes to sleep there is a fading out and in technique used
  • also more darkness starts to surround him as the shot follows into the dream
  • images are constantly overlayered and merged
    • transparent
  • smooth but quick change of images – there are no sharp cuts
  • we are constantly referred to the ‘sleeping man’ in his bed
    • showing a relationship between the present and the past-present (past because it refers to his memories of events – perhaps? – present because in their ethereal state they are happening ‘now’)
    • this relationship may be key in our identification, of the images, as a dream or stream of thoughts



  • objects like eyes isolated by darkness – taken out of context – have their own life
  • over-layering – overlaying
  • scenes transition smoothly – no sharp cuts (at the beginning) – one things goes/transforms into the next – in that way everything seems to be connected and related
  • repeated element of the ‘eye’
    • eyes on walls – large in scale – abstract
  • again, we see a relation between the ‘dream’ and the ‘present environment’
    • keep referring back to it – both visually and orally
  • shadows
    • incorporated into the environment
    • chasing
  • men without faces – re-occurring
    • representing fears?
    • disturbing to the mind/person
  • narrating throughout
    • both the subject as well as the viewer are trying to make sense of the dream portrayed
  • walking through one of Dali’s paintings
  • against Laws of Physics
  • bended objects
  • isolated landscape
  • objects morphing and becoming ‘other’
    • for instance a cliff that looks like it has been moulded into a face and other shapes



  • narration that sets the scene – sets time and place – kind of like stage directions also used by Tacita Dean
  • isolated place – he is the singular living subject – allows us to focus on his narrative – also conveys the fact that he is in a dream realm and it isn’t reality
  • clock without hands – no time – against Laws of Physics – laws that would occur in the natural world
  • perhaps unintentional but here the monochrome aesthetic of the film unifies the man with the dream world – there wouldn’t be a clear distinction between the two, if not for our previous knowledge of the human form – visually there is no importance hierarchy of forms – all are equal
  • the man becomes an active traveller within his mind – active participant
  • when we get a close up of the man’s face/portrait it is surrounded by darkness – his face strongly lit – enhances his isolation within the realm
  • strong shadows around – a result of a strong light source
  • distorted faces of other people – similar to Dali’s work
    • also in the two the men/people with these distorted faces seem to be the next most important person in the dream
    • perhaps a version of the first person – that has become abstracted?
    • that they are exploring through the dream – would normally form a part of them but not dominant
  • death
    • things like blood seem like shadow because of the monochrome aesthetic
    • coffin
  • experiencing different versions of himself
  • strong shadows upon the face link it to the environment – perhaps this was more clearly demonstrated in the scene were the man is literally surrounded by darkness
  • disturbed by the content of his dream

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s