Saturday, July 15, 2017

Dreaming in a Darkened Room

There's a scene in Tullio Demichelli's otherwise simply entertaining ASSIGNMENT TERROR (EL HOMBRE QUE VINO DE UMMO, 1969) that illustrates why movies are just like dreams, when one's in that magic moment between sleep and wakefulness, apparently able to control what's going on in the deepest recesses of one's mind.

As one lays asleep, the monsters stir in the shadows of the night. They prowl in search of prey, and they hunger. For what, we do not know. Theirs is the will of the unconscious, where dark desires brew and bubble in unseen cauldrons.

She lies asleep, a vision of beauty, placid and defenseless, unaware of the menace that defiles her solitude like a stray thought from Fuseli's notebook. Maybe it hungers for blood, or maybe it's all an arcane erotic ritual being played out in our mind's backstage. Maybe it's just our dormant limbic system uncoiling its darkest dreams, yearning for simpler, more primitive times, when we just took what we wanted.

And, in our dream, we're commanding the nightmarish presence, telling it to go forth, to take advantage of the beautiful young girl lost in her own dreams. Or it may be she's having a nightmare. Maybe our dream is her nightmare. One feels tempted to wonder if we're dreaming her, or are we a figment of her dream of someone dreaming her awake? For she wakes. As if sensing something's amiss. As if the mere weight of the evil satanic look upon her body gives her the shivers. Or as in  any good nightmare: you cannot be scared if you're not awake, even while you're sleeping.

And, by this time, we're turning and tossing in bed, near wakefulness, feeling the dream trying to slide from our grasp, the things happening out of control. She's wake, for god's sake. Don't let her scream. That would spell the end of the dream. But she only gasps. The nightmare is just beginning.

By now she's in that moment of the nighmare where you try to run through molasses, your limbs sinking in invisible mud that seems to extend to the earth's core itself. That's why she dreams she's being mesmerized, the monster's gaze glowing like a misjudged imitation of Cristopher Lee's iconic vampire in HORROR OF DRACULA (1958).

You, meanwhile, feel a surge of adrenalin in your dream. Or is it serotonin? The drug of happiness. Things are under control after all. You are there along with the vampire, looking down at your prey - that's how dreams and movies go: you can look, but you can't touch.

Although there's nothing else you'd want more. To touch her - she's Karin Dor after all, in the prime of her youth - and she's hipnotized, doubly asleep. Touch her, you cry in your sleep, at the same time shutting up the uproar of indignation from your sleeping counsciousness. This is a dream. In your dreams, you can be the monster if you want to.

And so you do it. The monster of your dreams does it. It's a monster after all, why should he keep the moral standards you live by in your waking hours? Arent' you dreaming when you go to the movies? Don't you close the door of dreams on the face of reality? Don't the actors lend their bodies and souls to embody your yearns? And if the director is of the right mind - if he directs his movies as you try to run your dreams - magic can happen. You look at the screen and, just like a toddler trying to warn Zorro that the soldiers are behind the barn doors, you find yourself commanding the action on screen. You say touch her, and the monster touches her.

Yes, that's it. And then you think, strip her. Tear that nightgown from her. Rip it off. After all, this is a dream. Only a dream. And you shout at the screen, come on, do it. And you feel surprised when the monster obeys you, the film obeys you, the director obeys you...

...the paw sliding up Karin's breast...

...clawed fingers anxious but gently curling around the nightgown's collar...

...bunching it up, prepping for yanking it down...

...and you're amazed of the power you have over dreams, over reality, as you keep mubling to yourself, yes, yes, do it, do it now, come on, DO IT!

And, as always, someone opens the door ans shatters the dream. He even comes dressed with the markings of science, as if to remember us that reality always trumps the stuff of dreams. And you're left with just a memory of what could have been. And you dream once more, of Karin Dor. Asleep and dreaming herself, safe from the monsters. That's life. That's cinema.

1 comment:

Gene Phillips said...

Good essay. The last minute intrusion also might deemed the director acting in the role of the interfering conscience, not for reasons of morality but for the motivation of keeping the viewer hungry for "the steak" after giving him only "the sizzle."