There is more in dreams

Review of Dreams (1990)

Review of Dreams (1990) movie, by Stefan Stenudd


This movie seems as if Akira Kurosawa intended it to be his last. It has an air of testament, of final words. In a number of separate episodes, he takes us through scenes of increasing darkness, and lands in one of peace and light. Surely, he intended the obvious likeness to Dante's Divine Comedy.


Ever Young. Supernatural fiction by Stefan Stenudd. Ever Young
Supernatural fiction by Stefan Stenudd
Caroline meets those who do not age, and this ability can be transmitted. But there are grisly downsides. Click the image to see the book at Amazon (paid link).


       Then, Kurosawa's Paradise is one of minimal splendor, a return to agricultural simplicity, man in harmony with nature. It's the same kind of ideal as expressed in the last verse of the Chinese book Tao The Ching. I have always suspected that ideal to be little more than a romantic illusion — a sweet dream, but boring to actually live in.

       The previous episodes are much more intense and fascinating, to the extent where one has to wonder if, perchance, Kurosawa would not have preferred to end up in one of them, rather than the last one — in spite of the torment they contain.

       Anyway, the film starts and ends with procession — the first a wedding, the last a funeral. In Kurosawa's Dreams, the former is threatening, and the latter joyous. I wonder why there is no birth. There are children, though, but they are in no way spared from the sorrows of the world. Sadly, that is true to life.

       Less realistic is the scarce presence of women. The most prominent female character is a sort of Snow Queen, trying to kill some men lost in the mountains. "The snow is warm, the ice is hot," she says to one of them, to make him sleep. True, indeed — but a harmful warmth, a deadly heat. Still, it cannot compare to the genocide heat produced by men, later on in the movie.

       These are dreams? If so, they are surprisingly barren. Not the likes of Dante's — or, I dare say, anyone else's. Dreams are complex things, and when studied closely, they open up like Pandora's box. Kurosawa's episodes are not dreams, in that sense, but mere silhouettes of them. For dreams to be revealed, they must be entered. Kurosawa seems to have kept them on a distance, taming them with his waking state.

       Perhaps he had found that his dreams could not compare to what he had accomplished in his many great movies.

Stefan Stenudd
18 January 2003


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I'm a Swedish author of fiction and non-fiction books in both Swedish and English. I'm also an artist, an historian of ideas and a 7 dan Aikikai Shihan aikido instructor. Click the header to read my full bio.