Is it just me, or do other people's dreams seem cinematic as well? Maybe it's just that the movies have completely taken over my visual imagination, but it seems like every time I have a dream I can remember, it comes complete with camera angles and backlighting. I mean I know Steven Spielberg is gradually trying to take over everything, but couldn't he at least have left my dreams alone? (isn't there a line in The Catcher in the Rye about this? Something about how the movies just slay you? It's somewhere in the middle - he imagines this shooting scene - I HATE not having all my books with me!).
Take last night. I have this big dream about some sort of revolutionary war. As I remember it, there was a coherent plot to the whole thing, complete with passionate discussions on important moral issues as well as a sub-plot of treason and intrigue, but I can't for the life of me remember anything about this. (It's one of the things that bugs me while reading Homer - how all these characters are always waking up saying how this or that God appeared to them in a dream disguised as someone else. I can't even remember who was in my dreams, let alone list their various aliases. If Pallas Athene ever showed up in my dream I'd probably end up confusing her with Paris Hilton. Not that I would ever dream about Paris Hilton of course. Further digression: have you seen Klimt's glorious portrait of Pallas Athene? It's awesome).
Anyway, what I do remember of the dream are two scenes:
Afternoon. Paratroopers wearing caps with long flappy ears (don't ask) are dropping into a crowded town square (the scene is vaguely reminiscent of The Longest Day, except that it's bright daylight). They hit the ground on their feet, firing, then their chutes close over them and they fold away into the earth, disappearing, never to rise again.
Suddenly the camera switches to an aerial shot from the perspective of a paratrooper. I can see my feet stretching away and the ground far beneath me, covered with scurrying people. Only it's not really me - I'm sitting still - it's the camera that's falling. As I go lower I lift up my gun, start firing, trying to correct for the angle. I know I have only a few precious seconds before the chute billows orange over me. I fire and fire and then the darkness closes in.
A soldier, running, out of breath. As I watch the camera zooms out, widens, until the figure of the running man is an afterthought against a misty horizon, a tiny squiggle in the left corner of the shot. The scene is a beautiful prairie, ankle high grass stirring softly in the wind, the sky a miraculous blue in the foreground, dissolving into a neutral haze that devours both it and the earth. The camera pans right, deserting the running soldier (he is carrying a very important message to the high command - I can't remember what), and lingering lovingly over the landscape.
Then suddenly, from somewhere in the distance, shells come streaking past, missiles of some sort, hissing like snakes, their flat, white arcs burned across my vision. Tracer bullets follow them, skipping lightly over the meadow as delicate as butterflies. There is no sound to the shot, the shells and bullets stream by in perfect silence, barely disturbing the serenity of the scene. The enemy remains invisible. The camera turns with the flying shells, seeking their destination. And there it is - in the shadow of a great mountain, a cluster of small huts, amid which the shells explode with the flash of a tourist's camera. Surely bullets cannot travel so far, I think, even in my dream. It doesn't matter, the barrage is natural, the landscape almost demands it, the entire shot has the artistic inevitability of a ballet. The town is burning now. The runner (yes, he is in the shot again - a tiny figure, high up on an overlook into the valley) has stopped to look.
Sigh. Where's Freud when you need him?
Note: If you're wondering why I'm rambling on about my dreams all of a sudden, blame Salvador Dali (whose painting - the Invention of Monsters - appears in this post). I figured this idea of using your dreams as material to get creative with might be interesting. Now all I need to do is start eating butterflies.