That’s from The Sandman—Morpheus sentences the guy who imprisoned him to recurring awakening. Basically, he’s constantly under the impression he has just woken from a nightmare only to find himself in a new one. It’s like Jungian false awakening (Celia Green’s version thereof, especially) taken in a very dark direction.
I’ve linked Groundhog Day to dreams before, of course. I’ve had a note since working through Benesh’s (2011) dissertation on Groundhog Day to get into false awakening as a topic, but in the modern parlance, I just wasn’t feeling it. Then, today, I was watching the latest episodes of Louie and there’s this surreal quality of late, with bizarre news reports—
(For example: “Ten people died in the Bronx last night due to a fire that killed ten people in the Bronx last night during a fire.”)
—and just as Louie’s new relationship is about to come to an end, there’s a hurricane coming into New York City. And then, suddenly, the hurricane, and the woman, are gone. But, the surreal quality continues a little into the next episode. In fact, the entire current season, as Melissa Maerz puts it at Entertainment Weekly, “often uses dream logic in place of jokes.
The second episode, “Model,” finds Louie (Louis C.K.) hooking up with a rich young beauty (Yvonne Strahovski) whose astronaut father walked on the moon. When he admits that things like this don’t usually happen to him, the woman shrugs, “Well, maybe it’s not really happening.” “Elevator Part 1″ opens with Louie’s daughter Jane (Ursula Parker) waking from a nightmare, and Louie assuring her that the scary dream is over. “No,” she insists, “I’m still dreaming, but…I’m having a nice dream now.” Later, we’re reminded that Jane’s mother (Susan Kelechi Watson) is black, even though Jane is blond-haired and blue-eyed, which might make us suspect that we’re dreaming too. This is what makes Louie so brilliant: It takes the type of mundane, familiar moment that fuels so much observational ¬comedy — a random hookup, a rough night with the kids — and pushes it so far past its rational outcome, it ends up challenging the idea that the “naturalism” we love from comedians is any less of a false construction than surrealism.
Izod (2000), 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 experiences as virtual rather than actual, and therefore ultimately as pleasurable. (p. 272)
I wonder now how much Groundhog Day has embedded itself in my mind, like a dream I have every night…
Perhaps this is why I’ve been having trouble sleeping lately. I just don’t need to as much because I’m already in a dreamlike state for 1 hour 41 minutes every day already. Or I’m a night person. Or both.
Jungian Dr. Paul Kugler refers to the “dream consciousness” that comes from thinking we’re awake when we’re really not. In Izod’s terms (and now mine, I suppose) is this the same when we think we’re asleep when we’re really awake? Or, taking this one step further, do we only watch film with our dream consciousness?
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.
The Buddhist approach to dreams is to see them as
simile for emptiness… portents of things to come… messages or teaching by the gods… [or] a return at night of things thought on during the day. (Sure)
Taking Sure’s notions further, “Dreams [and Groundhog Day] symbolize the changing and impermanent nature of all things known to the senses. Sights, sounds, smells, flavors, sensations of touch and thoughts [in Groundhog Day (or most any film, really)] are all dream-like, fleeting, and ultimately unobtainable.” The more we allow ourselves to be immersed in a film, the more we step outside our day-to-day reality. On the one hand, that’s why so many blockbuster films are action packed, exciting, because so many of our lives simply are not, and we need the escapism. On the other hand, specifically in terms of Groundhog Day, are we even escaping that “day-to-day”?
It is remarkable that we forgive Phil his worst behavior, but it is also understandable. In our day-to-day lives, we wish we could have the wit of Phil Connors, that we had his charm. And, given the chance to manipulate the time loop to give in to his hedonistic urges, we are right there with him, wishing we could do it as well. Not to mix my Jung and my Freud, but Phil is our id unleashed (at a PG-rated level, anyway). And, if we’re lucid enough, when we happen to have a false awakening out of sleep, we’d probably let our id out of its cage as well. I know I have.
Today's reason to repeat a day forever: to not need to dream because I'm already doing everything and anything I can think of that there is to do.
Harry Hunt (interviewing Paul Kugler) tells us:
It’s okay as a term in itself, being aware of the dream within the dream. That’s the bedrock. Then it departs because it seems to me at least that some people, once they’re aware of the dream, seek to encounter the dream more fully in either an analytic spirit or sometimes in a controlling spirit.
Recall the way we examine or deliberately choose not to examine a film we’ve seen. We are aware the film is not reality, that we were just watching it on a screen, but we let ourselves succumb. I read recently—but unfortunately, I don’t seem to have bookmarked the article—about a guy who was proposing a new way of editing film, getting rid of the cut and instead overlapping scenes, making it work more like memory does, stuff jumbled together just a bit. It’s an interesting idea but almost an entirely new medium if done right.
(Reminds me a little of Topher’s take on installing false memories in the TV show Dollhouse; rather than put them into the dolls one bit at a time, he just lumps it all together and loads it, let the doll’s brain make sense of it all.)
There’s a big difference between the two. Another group of people are hooked, in a sense, on the feeling of excitement. Within the dream there tends to be a kind of high or exhilaration of special kind of clarity.
That right there is that division implicit above, that some of us want escapism in film so we go for the big, mind-blowing visuals and outlandish plots; we want that excitement. Some of us, though, are excited by the more mundane.
Today’s reason to repeat a day forever: to be excited by the mundane.
Sure tells us, “Carl Jung believed that because the dream deals with symbols that have more than one meaning, there can be no simple, mechanical system for dream interpretation.” Map that onto film, then specifically onto Groundhog Day and I (and my blog) would beg to differ.
Today’s reason to repeat a day forever: to experience monkey sleep, and to know everything even if only for an instant.