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Author Topic: Dream Theory IMDB  (Read 35931 times)
Groggy
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« Reply #45 on: July 19, 2012, 06:44:03 AM »

Good points. A valid question too: if it weren't for the last scene, would anyone think of the movie as a dream? What else about the movie is "dreamlike"?

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« Reply #46 on: July 19, 2012, 06:52:38 AM »

The only strong textual elements supporting this theory are the scene with the car (already mentioned) and the very end. Neither of which, to my way of thinking, preclude ordinary stylization. I've even heard Deborah still looking young produced as evidence, too. Can't that be put down to a bad makeup job?

The read of the car scene is simple. Some kids dressed up for a party and it reminded Noodles of the '30s. Not as interesting as a dream but more logical. If we're going to claim Yesterday is non-diegetic why assume God Bless America is? Noodles wasn't there when Eve was killed so what significance did the song have to anyone but the audience?

I've already stated my view on the ending and I'll stand by it.

Textually, the evidence for a dream is rather sparse. Certainly they're ambiguous enough to preclude a "definite" reading either way. Leone's comments are hardly irrelevant, but we have to judge the film based on what the product is, not what Leone's intentions were.

EDIT: I forgot Deborah's son being played by the same actor as Young Max. IMO that's just as worthless an argument as Deborah's makeup. Is Life and Death of Colonel Blimp a dream because Deborah Kerr plays three different characters, all the protagonist's dream girl? Or is it a way to signal to the audience (and in this case Noodles as well) what's going on without reams of exposition?

« Last Edit: July 19, 2012, 09:49:48 AM by Groggy » Logged


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« Reply #47 on: July 19, 2012, 09:48:11 AM »

God Bless America is playing on the radio as Eve walks into the hotel room. In the scene with the car, it is non-diegetic. (But once we realize it is all a dream, it's possible that Noodles was dreaming of that song all along, the dream has come full circle).

There's another point you need to explain, Groggy: the significance of the pagoda on Long Island. If Noodles's opium smoking is just one element of the movie, but not the source of the dream that is the movie, then why should there be any hint in 1968 to the fact that Noodles smoked opium in the 30's? And finally, whatever alternative reasons for the smile you wanna give, and I've seen your responses to that in another thread, that doesn't really explain why the movie ends on that smile. And that's the key. Yeah, you can say he's smiling cuz he's doped out and is finally free of the burden of his betrayal, etc., but why end the movie on that smile? With the dream theory, there is real significance to it: the smile is actually the last thing that really occurs; everything afterward is a dream, beginning with the opening scene of the gangsters killing Eve and then coming after Noodles. The other explanations for the smile do not justify its placement at the end of the movie, and holding it in freeze-frame over the final credits. Something very, very important has to be happening during that smile.

RE: your question of whether there is anything to indicate that it's a dream besides for the final smile, whether there is anything else that is dream-like: Well, I do think that any time a movie plays a trick on us, it has to drop hints so that the viewer can't say, "wait a minute, you pulled a fast one on us." And OUATIA drops other hints to the dream, which we've discussed: the surreal car scene and the pagoda on Long Island. Setting aside the normative argument about whether or not it's a dream, I think you can say for certain that assuming it's a dream, the references were there. It's not simply an unjustified  "And Then I Woke Up" moment.


Back to the issue of director's intent: If da Vinci said something about the Mona Lisa being a picture of a pizza pie and not a woman, then no, I wouldn't say that it's a pizza pie. I'd say da Vinci was full of shit. The Mona Lisa is unambiguously, undoubtedly a woman. However, if the meaning behind a movie is ambiguous and could be interpreted in various ways, and then the director explains how he intended it (which works perfectly as one of the options), then yeah, I think that should be accepted, barring any argument to the contrary from someone else who worked on the movie. So I agree that if there was nothing in the movie to justify it being a dream, then that's that. But when you consider that A) the meaning is ambiguous; B) the dream is a very possible interpretation; and C) the director explains that he intended it to be read as a possible dream; then yeah, absent any contrary statement by a writer or producer or someone else who worked on the movie, I think we should accept the director's statement.

-------------

p.s. I was never all that concerned with the issue of Deborah looking young in 1968 (heck, some very beautiful women don't look like they age; I have a 45 year-old aunt who has 11 children and she is still skinnier, younger-looking, (and cuter!) than some of her teenaged daughters; I think of her like  like my baby sister!) But once you mention it: as Leone said, Deborah looks so young in 1968 is cuz we are seeing er through Noodles eyes; in his eyes, she has not aged. You can choose to accept or reject that interpretation, but please, with respect, the  "bad makeup job"  comment sounds silly, like you're grasping at straws. Come on, man. You can do better than that. I am not saying that makeup artists can't screw up a job; they could screw up in a Leone movie just as they could in any other movie. But the makeup artists did such an amazing job with Noodles, Max, Carol, and Fat Moe (whether or not you think they look convincing as old people, there is no doubt whatsoever that these people are meant to look as if they've aged; and I think the makeup job is one of the most amazing in the history of cinema; heck, I've never noticed makeup in a movie before this! ); so to explain away a potential problem with your theory by saying, well maybe Deborah looks young cuz it's a bad makeup job, even when Leone clearly explained that her character was specifically supposed to look young, is simply grasping at straws.

« Last Edit: July 19, 2012, 10:14:36 AM by drinkanddestroy » Logged

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« Reply #48 on: July 19, 2012, 10:04:23 AM »

Quote
God Bless America is playing on the radio as Eve walks into the hotel room. In the scene with the car, it is non-diegetic.

How do you know?

Quote
(But once we realize it is all a dream, it's possible that Noodles was dreaming of that song all along, the dream has come full circle).

Yeah, if we advance from an assumption we can prove anything we want.

Quote
There's another point you need to explain, Groggy: the significance of the pagoda on Long Island.

I don't even know what pagoda you're talking about.

Quote
If Noodles's opium smoking is just one element of the movie, but not the source of the dream that is the movie, then why should there be any hint in 1968 to the face that Noodles smoked opium in the 30's?

What are you trying to say? Rephrase the question.

Quote
And finally, whatever alternative reasons for the smile you wanna give, and I've seen your responses to that in another thread, that doesn't really explain why the movie ends on that smile.

Because it was his last moment of happiness before a lifetime of misery.  

Quote
With the dream theory, there is real significance to it: the smile is actually the last thing that really occurs… Something very, very important has to be happening during that smile.

This assumes that the above explanation does not mean anything "very important." His dreams at a happy life are crushed, he will have to spend the rest of his life as a hunted man. This is the last chance he has at any satisfaction, however fleeting or drug induced

Quote
However, if the meaning behind a movie is ambiguous and could be interpreted in various ways, and then the director explains how he intended it (which works perfectly as one of the options), then yeah, I think that should be accepted, barring any argument to the contrary from someone else who worked on the movie.

You again miss the point. Leone intended for there to be ambiguity regarding this. If he'd wanted it to be explicitly a dream he would have closed off other possible readings. He did not, so other interpretations are possible. He intended for other interpretations to be possible. Why is this hard to grasp? Fact-based approach to film analysis is a fallacy.

Quote
You can choose to accept or reject that interpretation, but please, with respect, the  "bad makeup job"  comment sounds silly, like you're grasping at straws.

The idea is Deborah will appear ageless while made up as Cleopatra and then reveals herself as middle aged when she rubs it off. This unfortunately does not work in practice as even her "old age" makeup is poor.

More generally, yes, I think the Dream Theory turns the movie into a pointless charade. At a straight level, Noodles has spent 35 years trying to escape his past, only to be confronted with it in a most shocking manner. It's a story with pathos and real depth of feeling, elegantly presented. Making the audience sit through a four hour movie only to say it's a dream is a contemptible cop-out worthy of a bad soap opera.

« Last Edit: July 19, 2012, 12:26:58 PM by Groggy » Logged


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« Reply #49 on: July 19, 2012, 02:33:52 PM »

When I first watched it the appearance of Debora without age and the appearance of the look a like son of Max had me questioning reality a bit.

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« Reply #50 on: July 20, 2012, 05:00:19 AM »

Well, drinkanddestroy, despite all your voluminous posts, you've still not answered the question "When you first watched the movie, did you think that part of it was a dream?"

I don't mind admitting that none of the scenes led me on my first viewing to consider that they were part of some elaborate dream. I put some of the things such as the bullet holes in the sheet, the telephone ringing, the kids (and fully grown adult gangsters) keeping large amounts of money in a locker at a railway station down to artistic and dramatic license and the style of the director.

Sergio Leone: "The films are for grown-ups, but they remain fairy tales and have the impact of fairy tales. For me, cinema is about imagination, and the imagination is best communicated in the form of parables...meaning fairy tales. Not in the Walt Disney sense, though, which draw attention to themselves as fairy tales...everything is made up and cleaned up and sugary sweet making the tale less suggestive. To me, anyway. I think that fairy tales capture the audience’s imagination when the setting is realistic rather than fantastical. The fusion of realistic setting and fantasy story can give film a sense of myth, of legend, Once upon a time......"

The first time I heard about the dream theory was listening to the commentary by Richard Schickel. But he was definitely wrong about the frisbee scene. It must be impossible for a director who has worked on a project for many years to cancel out all the versions of scripts he has read, the book on which a movie is based, all the scenes which were filmed but never used, and all the changes and influences made by members of his cast and crew and put himself in the place of a person who sees the film for the first time and doesn't have all that prior knowledge and those experiences. I've listened to many commentaries over the years in which a director has described his intentions and objectives for a certain part. Sometimes I've thought that yes those are good intentions and it makes sense but there's no way on earth that the ordinary man in the street would see those scenes and realise those were the director's intentions whilst watching the movie.

Personally the things that bothered me most on my first viewing were Bailey's anonimity, the ambiguity of the garbage truck scene and the ending. Bailey's anonimity no longer bothers me, I understand a bit more about the garbage truck and the smile is an iconic image. Leone wanted the movie to be circular and he had to end the movie in some way possibly with a nod to Harry Grey, possibly a nod to his original vision for the movie.

None of the shooting scripts I have read have contained the pages relating to the garbage truck scene and those pages may have given some information about the pagoda and the links to the next scene which was supposed to be a walk through Chinatown.  Leone's way of filming obviously upset the Americans and he had to leave America before the scheduled date.  Possibly he was unable to shoot some of the scenes he had planned to film there.  Possibly budget restraints stopped him from going to China and shooting the walk through scene there.

I suppose personally, on my first viewing, I would have preferred less ambiguity, which may have made it more appealing to a wider audience, but without this and without Leone's unique style, we probably wouldn't still be talking about the movie and having heated discussions about it 30 years after filming began.

 

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« Reply #51 on: July 20, 2012, 04:56:54 PM »

Something very, very important has to be happening during that smile.
True, but why assume that it is anything more than Leone commenting on Noodle's existence? The "dream" is just the lie that Noodles believes and will continue to believe for 35 years, and perhaps even after that. Max constructed the lie and got Noodles to bite and afterwards Noodles could never let it go. Even when Max summoned him back after the 35 years to reveal the truth, Noodles rejected the truth and chose to continue to believe in the lie. The lie is what makes him happy--ironically, because it requires Noodles to be cast as Judas. But Noodles would rather believe that he is Judas than that Max is.

Recall that when Leone encountered Harry Grey he was struck by the fact that the stories he told about himself as an adult were obviously cribbed from motion pictures. Also note that the opium den does more than sell opium--it's also a magic lantern theater, an obvious metaphor for the cinema. Hollywood was once called the Dream Factory, and perhaps we can say that there are certain affinities between the dreams it produced and the dreams, presumably, one can have under opium. Hollywood had a famous master of illusion called Max, too--Max Factor. There are always Maxes ready to create lies for people to believe, and there are always those with "noodles" who are willing to accept those lies. And it's never a question of not knowing the difference between reality and illusion. It's just that the illusion is what some people prefer.

Grey's adult life, as he related it to others, was a lie. Noodles adult life was another kind of lie. At the end of his picture Leone offered us a metaphor for that lie, the beautiful opium dream.

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« Reply #52 on: July 20, 2012, 05:34:00 PM »

Groggy: your previous post has 8 "sections," each consisting of a quote of mine plus your comment; I will refer to the sections I am responding to by number:

RE: SECTION 1: I believe I read in STDWD that the song God Bless America is playing on the radio in the hotel room in the beginning of the movie, but I just looked at the scene again after reading your post, and I can't be sure about that. RE: whether it's diegetic in the final scene, I am not certain either (did cars have radios in 1933?) So I have to say now that I am not certain about the source of that music, and whether it's intended to be diegetic.

But with Yesterday, it seems pretty certain to me that it is not diegetic. Of course, it's hard to prove that something is NOT diegetic. Unless you see some specific source for it in the scene, I assume it's not diegetic.

RE: SECTION 2: All I'm saying is that the playing of that song fits very well with the dream theory; it is certainly not a proof of that theory


RE: SECTION 3: When Noodles is watching the garbage truck and then the 30's cars go by, there is a pagoda, a Chinese structure,  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pagoda     in the background, across the street from the Bailey estate. No reason why there'd be a pagoda there on Long Island; but it's a reference to the fact that this is all an opium dream taking place in Chinatown

RE: SECTION 4: Sorry, there was a typo; I meant to say "fact," not "face." (I corrected my initial post). My point is that, as I mentioned above with the pagoda, what's the point of having the pagoda as a 1968 reference to Noodles's opium smoking if you don't believe this is all an opium dream?

RE: SECTION SEVEN: Yes, Leone intended there to be a double meaning, ie. that viewers should say that it could be viewed as a dream. But I don't think the intent was that some will say that it was not intended to be a dream

RE: SECTION EIGHT: Even with the dream, it doesn't mean that the 1968 scenes are pointless! It's not like a kid is dreaming about being chased by monsters, and when he is aroused in a cold sweat, his father says, "It's okay, it never really happened!" Of course there are very important themes in the movie that are important despite the fact that it turns out that it "didn't really happen" cuz it's a dream. The point of the dream theory is not to say that "oh, the 1968 stuff never really happened." (The point is what we've discussed previously, Leone's feelings about the mixture of fantasy/reality, and the dream of cinema, etc. which were also heavily influenced by Leone's meetings with Grey.) But the point is not to say "haha it never really happened." That would be silly.

« Last Edit: July 21, 2012, 09:56:25 PM by drinkanddestroy » Logged

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« Reply #53 on: July 20, 2012, 05:49:23 PM »

chris: i did not think of the dream theory when I first watched it.  I had no idea about opium and the fact that smokers have dreams about the future. But once I was alerted to the idea that it was  dream, it all made perfect sense, and I now believe 100% that it's a dream

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« Reply #54 on: July 20, 2012, 07:02:06 PM »

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Leone intended there to be a double meaning, ie. that viewers should say that it could be viewed as a dream. But I don't think the intent was that some will say that it was not intended to be a dream


Thanks for contradicting yourself. It saves me the trouble. Cheesy

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« Reply #55 on: July 21, 2012, 10:21:22 PM »



Thanks for contradicting yourself. It saves me the trouble. Cheesy

Perhaps I didn't explain myself properly, and/or perhaps you misunderstood me. But I didn't contradict myself; I've been consistent all along. That specific point I was trying to formulate is difficult to explain, so I'll try to do it again, and explain very very clearly what I mean. Here goes:

There are two possible definitions of the term "double meaning"

One possible definition, which I'll call A) is that Leone intended that some viewers will interpret something one way, while other viewers will interpret it another way.

Another possible definition, which I'll call B) is that Leone intended that all viewers will understand that there are two possible interpretations of the movie.

I believe that the "double meaning" that was intended was B). Therefore I believe that it is correct to say "Leone intended that viewers will say that the movie exists on two possible levels, as a reality and as a dream." But I believe it is incorrect to say that "since Leone intended that it have a double meaning, the viewers who argue that it MUST be reality are also correct."

 Leone meant is that "all viewers should understand that there is a double meaning." Therefore, those who argue that the movie is absolutely all reality, and completely discount the possibility of a dream element, are wrong.

This is similar to the discussion of the man jumping into the garbage truck at the end. As we know, it looks like Bailey but we never get a clear shot of his face, so it's left to be ambiguous. ("We know, but we don't know, but we know," as James Woods said.) But the ambiguity is not that some viewers should say it's definitely Bailey, while others should say it's definitely not Bailey. Rather, the ambiguity element is that ALL viewers should say it's meant to be ambiguous, that we really know even though don't know for sure.

The reason I so thoroughly discount the argument that the movie could correctly be interpreted as being purely realistic is that as I've discussed extensively before, I think there are so many things that happen in the movie that can't be explained as being pure reality. And cuz Leone clearly mentioned the dream element, it cannot be disregarded. Again, I do not believe that we have to accept the director's word  if he states the meaning of something which cannot be plausibly interpreted from watching the movie; or if others involved in the movie argue with him. But if the director states the meaning of something which certainly is a very reasonable interpretation (to put it mildly), and nobody that I've seen who was involved with the movie denies it, (not to mention the fact that soooo many things that happen make more sense when you go with the director's interpretation), then yes, it is a slam dunk. I think there's lots of room for debate and discussion with Leone's movies, just like all movies, but this is one of the rare times when I absolutely do not give a shred of credibility to an argument: ie. the argument that the movie only reads like straight reality, and that there is no basis for at least a possible interpretation that it's a dream

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« Reply #56 on: July 22, 2012, 02:09:51 AM »



 Leone meant is that "all viewers should understand that there is a double meaning."


If Leone really meant that, then he failed terribly. Only a little minority has interpreted greater parts of the film as a dream.

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« Reply #57 on: July 22, 2012, 03:28:05 AM »

If Leone really meant that, then he failed terribly. Only a little minority has interpreted greater parts of the film as a dream.


I'm not sure what you're basing that on. Do you mean "a little minority of the members on the SLWB"? You;d have to speak to a shitload of fans before you can get an appropriate sample size to definitively know what the opinion is of a minority, small or large. I can only speak for myself and those that I read on the board, and the critics whose reviews I read. I can't pretend to speak for the perhaps hundreds of millions of people worldwide that have seen this film over the past 28 years

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« Reply #58 on: July 22, 2012, 03:58:00 AM »

Most people who have seen (and liked/loved) the movie have never heard of the dream theory Smiley Only a bunch of nerds like us know about it.

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« Reply #59 on: July 22, 2012, 04:11:23 AM »

Most people who have seen (and liked/loved) the movie have never heard of the dream theory Smiley Only a bunch of nerds like us know about it.

polling is a very difficult, costly, time-consuming, and scientific process. But despite all that, we are polling experts here at the SLWB!!!

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