Dreams Review

Unity through imagination, that is what Dreams offers. Akira Kurosawa adapts his own fictional creations, deep in the throes of sleep, he casts a light on his mind in his first of three 1990s features. Eight little segments are offered by Kurosawa, each with a delightful, transcendent feeling to them. They are certainly the stuff of dreams and magic. Visually, thematically, and messaging, all are brought to the screen with an airy lightness to them. Even the darker moments, the dismal nightmares that are sure to plague everyone at some stage, Dreams tackles those with the same beauty. It is the inference and detail that will suggest the fear and love Kurosawa holds within. The imitable nature of his dreams, the personal relationship he has to these scenes, and the duty he has to bring them to the audience as functional narratives is a large challenge indeed. 

Naturally, Kurosawa is up to the task. His intimate nature is the result not just of his dreams, but the work he had set before it. His vignettes may offer stories from deep within his sleepy mind, but their visualisation is key to unlocking the meaning to them. Even then, is there a need for meaning to these? The visuals are enough. They expand thoroughly well, and the act of adapting a dream to the screen is, in of itself, a fascinating notion. Kurosawa accepts that but still adds detail to underline these moments. It is far greater to have a reason for the experience, rather than just a picture book of pretty colours and great performances. Meaning ties it all together, but what the meaning is can be broad and adaptable, it exists very vaguely, like a dream itself. A simple concept, rather than some obvious, structured experience.  

It is Dreams that perhaps highlights the beauty of Kurosawa’s dialogue best. Foxes have their weddings in the rain. It is the vein of madness clashing with lessons dealt out to impressionable children whose imaginations can handle that. Kurosawa benefits exponentially from following his own dreams, not just because they are fascinating, but because when he fills in the inevitable gaps of dialogue and visualisation, the beauty of the message and the dreamlike nature is very much intact. Blistering colds, strong gusts of rain and wind, and limitless beauty from the scenery around these characters, Kurosawa uses the weather to showcase the state of mind. Fear, aggression, love and animosity, all provided through how the weather is shown, and what its impact is on the characters. It is one of the many parts of Dreams that makes its vignette-style experience worth it. 

Collections of stories are not all that interesting. Their lack of connection to one another, especially in horror compendiums, means that most of these projects are setlists of short films. Just look at Cahiers du Cinéma for examples of great artists giving out mediocre work. Where Dreams works, though, is that this is the mind of one man. He adapts what he remembers, fills in the gaps and the end result is a beautiful, touching and inevitably personal set of stories from the mind of one of cinema’s greatest directors. His innermost desires and regrets are painted vividly, broadly, and beautifully. 

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