Wednesday, May 2, 2012

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream

As most of my friends know, I have always been a very heavy dreamer. Sometimes when I describe a particular dream sequence they look at me as if I'm crazy.

How can I blame them? If I could film my dreams, either they would fascinate people or someone would lock me up and throw away the key.

My dreams are almost never violent, but are often filled with suspense. They have a fluidity of motion and structure that is rarely found in narrative film unless, of course, you consider animation.

As increasing advances in technology help animators, the fertility of their imaginations gets unleashed in ways I find utterly fascinating. Some have managed to create dreamscapes as bizarre and amazing as some of my dreams. Consider, for a moment, David O'Reilly's vision of hell (a one-minute-long sequence which the 27-year-old artist recently described as "just playing around").

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During the recent San Francisco International Film Festival, two animated shorts stood so far above the others in terms of imagination, structure, and artistic brilliance that I was left speechless by their cinematic beauty.

In Plume, a primeval winged man who falls to earth and is robbed of freedom by his alter egos finds redemption by casting off his former existence. As these three menacing creatures attack the winged man to get his feathers, the viewer watches a well-muscled, anatomically correct puppet being manipulated with remarkable skill. In the following video clip, filmmaker Barry JC Purves describes how working with a puppet challenged and inspired him to bring his artistic vision to life.

Once he has been stripped of his feathers, the man discovers a new medium -- water -- in which he can survive and thrive. With a fantastic original score by Nicolas Martin, Plume has to be seen to be believed. Here's Purves giving more detail about his creative process during a lecture to filmmaking students.

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Another animator to experiment with using puppets in water is Andrew Huang, whose 10-minute short entitled Solipsist recently won the 2012 Slamdance Film Festival award for best experimental short. Huang (who graduated from the University of Southern California with a degree in Fine Art and Animation) currently works in Los Angeles as a commercial and video music director.

A multi-talented powerhouse, Huang also wrote the music and engineered the sound design for Solipsist (which I strongly advise readers to watch in full-screen mode).

Once you've peeled your brains up off the floor, watch The Making of Solipsist:

Not everyone enjoys their dreams, nor can they always remember their dreams.Some people work so hard to dissect and interpret their dreams that they miss out on one of the grandest artistic adventures in life.

A former roommate (whose favorite drug was PCP) insisted that he could decide what he would dream before he went to bed. He totally misunderstood what dreams can offer.

While some describe the phenomenon of dreaming as akin to what happens when your brain tries to defragment its hard drive, I prefer to think of my dreams as an internal version of the Aurora borealis; a private edition of the Northern Lights that awaits within my head. Dreaming (at least for me) takes me through a magical, mystical portal to uncharted dimensions filled with color, action, and the most raucous (and occasionally grandiose) type of cinematic experience.

If you're looking to be genuinely shocked and awed, all you need to do is lie back, put your head on the pillow, and let go. On a really good night, it's the greatest show on Earth.

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