Tuesday, January 21, 2014

who dreams of you at night

Benesh (2011) relies on John Izod’s (2000) Journal of Analytical Psychology essay, “Active imagination and the analysis of film” in linking the viewing of film to the process of dreaming. Izod’s original piece is interesting in that he argues, “Screened fiction has… the potential to help the individual grow in self-awareness” because “Experiencing affects aroused by fictions can resemble being drawn into a rehearsal for a possible, imagined future that just might (but more likely never will) occur in the individual’s life in the real world” (p. 267). The interesting thing here is that Izod’s description here implies that dreams lead to self-awareness. I like the idea of that… and maybe it seems obvious, but, of course, there’s still the possibility that dreams are simply the random firing of synapses as the body shuts down and lets the mind have some fun…

But, even if—and I’d wager that as a big if—dreams are random, the specific contents still have to come from the material we’ve got stored away in our brains. So, there would have to be something in each dream that would link, at least indirectly, to who and what we are. I’ve actually cited Izod through Benesh before, quoting the following:

…for viewers, no less than for Phil, an imprint remains as during the film the audience members “introject” or take in its psychic content including symbols, images, and narrative, as well as projecting individual personal concerns. After the film, if it is particularly “resonant,” the process continues as the film “plays on” in the viewer’s mind. A personal “edition” of the film is thus created and is assimilated into the psyche of the viewer. (Benesh, 2011, p. 8)

Izod specifically suggests:

A lowering of the level of consciousness is experienced in the dark warmth and security of the cinema as it unreels its manifold diversions. Its sumptuous images and sounds, its compelling characters and stories arouse many emotions and stir drives of which the individual may be unconscious. Because of the fictionality of their object, whatever the specific nature of these emotions (fear, anger, desire, wonder, horror), they are usually experienced as virtual rather than actual, and therefore ultimately as pleasurable. (Izod, 2000, p. 272)

I don’t know if the reality of this notion—that we experience film as we do dreams—is accurate, but it seems a reasonable metaphor. A great film will certainly play back in our heads afterward. Groundhog Day certainly does for me. Izod suggests, “Full engagement with a symbolic film… has no less potential than to change individuals’ consciousness. It can alter the way they feel and think about themselves or the world” (p. 274). And, I would say, not just because I sprinkle my everyday conversation with lines from the film… Oh, he wasn’t specifically referring to me. Really, though, I don’t do that… Well, I don’t do that much more than I used to. I—and a couple of my sisters—have had a habit since as long as I can remember of quoting movies in regular conversation.

But, let’s not get sidetracked by that.

Izod quotes Jung in defining the visionary text, which I would argue, Groundhog Day is one. Jung says:

it can be a revelation whose heights and depths are beyond our fathoming, or a vision of beauty that we can never put into words…[Most works of art] never rend the curtain that veils the cosmos; they do not exceed the bounds of our human capacities… But the primordial experiences rend from top to bottom the curtain upon which is painted the picture of an ordered world, and allow a glimpse into the unfathomable abyss of the unborn and of things yet to be. (Izod, 2000, p. 276, citing “Jung 1950, para. 141)

Groundhog Day does indeed “rend the curtain that veils the cosmos,” I would say, which is interesting because I was asked a few nights ago why Groundhog Day followed by a line implying it’s a film with no depth. And, people who don’t read this blog regularly ask me, of course, what I write about. Clearly, they haven’t done what Izod suggests we all do, and certainly not consciously; they haven’t reexamined the film in their heads.

If you are one of those people, I would recommend that you do think about film after you watch it, and not just this film. Citing Hillman (199), Izod tells us, “What Hillman advocates is naked, emotionally unguarded self-exposure to the symbol, which should be encountered and watched as if it were alive—almost like a person” (Izod, 2000, p. 280). Benesh says the next step, after one has built that “personal ‘edition’” of a film in one’s head, is to watch the movie again, “comparing that imagined text with the original text to see what is legitimate and what must be discarded” (p. 63). Since I’ve already touched on Jung today, I suppose now is as good a time as any to bring back Nietzsche; specifically, I’d cite his notion of eternal recurrence (covered in this blog on Day 39, Day 40 and Day 41). What Benesh (by way of Izod) is suggesting a researcher do with a text (in this instance, a film) is what Nietzsche might say we should all do with our lives every day. Life shouldn’t be some passive thing we let happen around us. Nor, really, should the viewing of film be. Every act should be deliberate, every act as revealing of self as our dreams may be. That isn’t to say that all acts will end up being good, of course. Being deliberate does not mean we will never make mistakes or do regrettable things. But, at least, if we are deliberate in the doing, we can also be deliberate in making amends if it comes to that.

I will end today by suggesting that there is a song missing from Groundhog Day:

Row, row, row your boat
Gently down the stream.
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,
Life is but a dream.

Today’s reason to repeat a day forever: to dream and to live and know that everything I do is a reality that continues on even if I do not.

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