Some characters thump awake, panting, in a snarl of sweaty sheets. Some characters open their eyes with a snap, hold the pose for a full two camera seconds, sigh. Depends what it’s been – lurid wish-fulfilment, vicious tragedy, traumatic flashback. A shortcut to backstory, a cheap bit of misdirection. Rarely surreal, no abrupt shifts of scene or familiar places in illogical shapes. High emotion. The reason dreams in films so often don’t convince isn’t that they’re unrealistic. It’s that they aren’t unrealistic enough.
No surprise, really. This is the economy of fiction, and what exists must work in service to the plot or it’s out on its ear. But, still, all these characters on all these screens who seem to spend every night staring at a slideshow of memory – after a while you start to wonder if the screenwriters have actual dreams at all.
So what’s great about Inception is that there aren’t any real dreams in it.
An elderly man takes in his orphaned young cousin. It is surprising, given that the man is known as something of a recluse, a retiring academic type – specialist in the later pagans and their mystical beliefs – seemingly more comfortable with books than persons. Or maybe it is not surprising for a man to take an interest in the welfare of a young relative, if interest of a distant kind. He asks the boy’s age, and such, and sends him off to be looked after by the housekeeper; and the housekeeper tells him, one day, of her master’s kindness, that he has taken in children before, a little gipsyish girl and a little foreign boy, although being gipsyish the little girl ran off after a few weeks, and being a foreign ragamuffin and naturally unruly so too did the boy.
Strange dreams this young cousin has, of a thin thin body lying moaning, hands pressed to its heart; and he sleepwalks at night at times; and there are rats in the house too, huge ones they must be, for there are scorings on the young boy’s door and even scratches on his nightgown, all down the left side of his chest, after he has spent another night in a dream he cannot quite remember; and it might be rats or the wind in the cellars at night but the butler will not go down to fetch the wine once dark has fallen, for in that dark such scuttlings and sighings have a sound uncommonly like speech.
And, now the boy is eleven and a half, something dreadfully exciting is to happen: for his uncle has asked him to sit up until quite eleven o’clock, and to come and visit in his study.
It’s fourteen degrees centigrade in my room, much colder out, and at this point in January summer feels like a friend you’ve lost touch with and will never see again, but sometimes semi-recognise in the faces of strangers in the street; and in this song.
I don’t remember a time when this song didn’t exist. I don’t remember any one time I’ve heard it on the radio. In my head it’s jumbled up with in-line-skating, loudly-patterned leggings, pineapple and cheese cubes on sticks, an oversaturated yellow mess of nostalgia beyond emotion. The song tells much the same story as Janet Jackson’s ‘Whoops Now’ four years later: school’s boring, her boss is lame, the only thing that gets her through is — is the chorus, the way it rolls with blithe certainty into the hook, whistling and tootling doo doo doos, as sure as summer. Vague discontent gives way to wordless contentment.
You can’t hear this song and not feel the sun come out, somewhere inside — or even outside. I’ve been listening to this song over and over, writing this, and as I type I’ve just noticed the sun peek out from behind the clouds to shine its smile in through my window. Summer’s going to come back, inevitable as a laid-back drum loop, as heartwarming as a saxophone solo. So: smile!
Among the various ground-breaking concepts mooted in the latest nerve-tingling installment of Freaky Trigger and the Lollards of Pop was the suggestion that there might have been a ‘Bolshevik Monopoly’, so households of a socialist persuasion didn’t have to miss out on that all-important board-game family bonding time. Naturally my ears pricked up, for I in fact have seen this game: we have it at my parents’ house. Oh, perhaps it’s not quite ‘Bolshevik Monopoly’ (as, naturally, in a people’s communist paradise the state holds all monopolies), but it’s fairly close – Bertell Ollman’s Class Struggle, “an educational game for kids from 8 to 80… to prepare for life in Capitalist America”.