To tie in with Hallowe’en screenings of A Nightmare on Elm Street in cinemas across the U.K., I compiled a Top Ten list of dream sequences in the movies for the Telegraph website. Unfortunately, for technical reasons, they asked me to cut it down to six. Here’s a link to the piece, followed by the four that didn’t make the cut – the choice of what to leave out was pretty much arbitrary, and depended mostly on the relevance of the clips I found on YouTube.
“Dreams, they feel real when we’re in them, right?” says Leonardo DiCaprio in Inception. “It’s only when we wake up that we realise that something was actually strange.” But, once we’re past Ellen Page rolling up Paris like a map, the dreams in Christopher Nolan’s film get progressively duller, culminating in a banal Ice Station Zebra-style shoot-up. I prefer my dreams a little more imaginative, like the ones in A Nightmare on Elm Street, being shown all around the UK on Hallowe’en.
Here, then, are ten of the Most Discombobulating Dream Sequences in Movies. They may bear scant relation to anything actually dreamt by you or me, but dream sequences can reveal a characters’ inner life, or underline a movie’s themes. Or sometimes they’re just there to scare the bejeesus out of us…
To read on, please click here to be transported in dreamlike fashion to the Telegraph website:
Or stay on this page to see the films that were cut out.
THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE (1962)
“Night after night, the Major was plagued by the same recurring nightmare.” Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey and other Korean War veterans are all sharing the same dream – of being guests at a New Jersey Fun with Hydrangeas convention, run by middle-aged women. John Frankenheimer’s seriously weird thriller was adapted from Richard Condon’s political satire, and remade by Jonathan Demme in 2004.
ROSEMARY’S BABY (1968)
“I dreamt someone was raping me. I think it was someone inhuman.” Mia Farrow dreams she’s on a yacht with JFK. Then she’s naked. Then, oh dear, she’s surrounded by naked old folk. Filmed straight, the satanic rape might have seemed absurd, but mixing it up with Rosemary’s subconscious is a masterstroke; the ambiguity makes it credible, and all the more alarming. As Rosemary exclaims mid-dream, “This is no dream! This is really happening!”
THE DISCREET CHARM OF THE BOURGEOISIE (1972)
Ingmar Bergman (Wild Strawberries) and Federico Fellini (8½) have both filmed memorable dream sequences, but no arthouse auteur has explored the oneiric possibilities more thoroughly than Luis Buñuel. Many of his films contain surreal situations, but this one entirely consists of interlocking dreams in which a group of middle-class friends keep trying to sit down to dinner, but are repeatedly thwarted by outlandish events, including interruptions by soldiers and police, and a revelation that their dining table is part of a stage set. There’s even a dream within a dream when a young army sergeant describes walking down an empty street and meeting a dead friend, and then his dead mother. While most of the film is shot in a realistic way, this sequence, accompanied by the murmur of an invisible crowd and the ominous tolling of a bell, is very creepy indeed.
MULHOLLAND DRIVE (2001)
“I just came here from Deep River, Ontario, and now I’m in this dream place.” From the lady in the radiator in Eraserhead onwards, David Lynch’s films have dabbled in dreamlike situations, but none more so than this refashioning of a rejected TV pilot into a wish fulfilment fantasy-turned-nightmare. The celebrated dream sequences in Lynch and Mark Frost’s Twin Peaks, meanwhile, were spoofed in the final segment of Tom DiCillo’s Living in Oblivion (1995), in which Peter Dinklage complains, “Even I don’t have dreams with dwarves in them.”
Great picks, the Rosemary’s Baby dream sequence has haunted me for years!
Nice post! I came here especially looking for Mulholland Drive – I’d say it’s got the most accurate dream atmosphere of all time.
I’d forgotten all about NoESt, an early role for J. Depp who gets memorably sucked off in a bed, [To another dimension, if you thought anything else then shame on you lot].
The one film dream sequence that gave me the hee-bee gee-bees was in a film starring Catherine Denueve, forgotten the title, [she is in a creepy corridor, the walls turn to rubber and dozens of arms reach out]. I wouldn’t walk down an unlit corridor for weeks after that.
Thanks for your nice comments. Yowns – seems like you’re thinking of Repulsion, though they’re not dream sequences, more like schizophrenic hallucinations. Still creepy, though.
Thank you for the tip off about ‘Repulsion’, probably will never watch it again, (cowering behind a cushion is never a good look). But at least I’ve been able to place it in a proper context viz ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ and ‘The Tenant’.
At the risk of going way, way off topic, were any of the panel discussions at WFC13 recorded? Friend is a big Cushing fan/nut/obsessive.
Not me, prefer Chris Lee, in his various roles, [strictly between us, I’ll even admit his musical number from ‘The Return of Captain Invincible’, has a certain baroque charm.]