Undergraduate Honors Thesis


Cinema And The Unconscious: Filmic Representations of Dreams Public Deposited

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  • “Dreams are the touchstones of our characters.” - Henry David Thoreau, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers The ubiquitous nature of dreams works to connect all humankind through its powerful presence in both our waking and sleeping life. I became curious about the unconscious after I recorded a series of dreams that I experienced last summer. After looking at this phenomena from the outside, I became invested in the narrative aspect of dreams and the personal nature the dreamer has with each dream. It then occurred to me how significant dreams are in our daily life. We experience thousands of dreams throughout our lifetime - varying constructions of our unconscious reassembled night after night. One of the remarkable things about dreams is that only the individual gets to experience them directly. There have been many cultural attempts to capture the dream experience. From the paintings of Salvador Dali to the poetry of Edgar Allan Poe, dreams have been a popular catalyst for artistic creation. When film came into existence, it too tried to capture that special, esoteric quality which was seemingly exclusive to the world of the dream. I noticed the special relationship between film and the unconscious and wanted to probe further into these cinematic interpretations of dreams. With the recommendation of a book, The Paradox of Sleep: The Story of Dreaming by Michel Jouvet, I began to study the mechanics behind dreams. This led me to consider the way that dreams have been adapted into cinema and also led me to notice the similarities between the cinematic representations of dreams and the scientific mechanics laid out in Jouvet’s book. I then began crafting my thesis based around two distinct dream films: Inception and Mulholland Dr. Using the book as a basis to study the films, I crafted my thesis poised to “...examine the intertwining nature of dream analysis and cinematic representations of dreams.” This paper provided illuminating evidence to the ways that films about dreams have crafted dreams and used the concept of dreaming to further add to the context of the film.

Date Awarded
  • 2015-01-01
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Last Modified
  • 2020-04-16
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