A Dream Within A Dream
I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand --
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep -- While I weep!
O God! can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?
-- Edgar Allan Poe
Do we really know who we are? Is the world around us the way we perceive it to be? Can we be sure that the sun is yellow, grass is green and there will always be a tomorrow. Can we even be sure that there was a yesterday?
What is the difference between reality and dreams? Aren't dreams reality while we sleep? Dreams can come true, become reality, but we can also turn reality into dreams. Hollywood does it for a living.
A dream come true for me was to celebrate New Year's Eve in London. It also gave me an opportunity to see films unadulterated by subtitles and compare cinemas in London's West End with those in Linköping, though the comparison is unfair. These also provided me with an ideal environment in which to sample other people's dreams.
One of these dreamers who has often contemplated the narrow line between dream and reality, a vague boundary that separates us from the truly insane, truly visionary, or truly asleep, is Philip K. Dick. In Blade Runner, Deckard's job consists of hunting down and ''retiring'' replicants, genetically engineered human beings. The Nexus Six generation of replicants have a limited life span of four years, a purposely designed safety valve since they had shown tendencies to develop emotions beyond this age. Dreams. Six replicants escape from the Mars colony, four make it to Earth. Ex Blade Runner Deckard (Harrison Ford) is blackmailed into accepting the thankless task of retiring them before they become a menace to the society that created them.
Underneath the science fiction surface this is a film about dreams. In all his super-human, artificial splendour, the leader of the replicants, Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer), is pursuing a very basic, very human dream. He wishes to meet his maker and persuade him to let him wake up on the 1,462nd day of his life, and all following days, until such time that Nature, not Man, decides that he shall sleep. It's the story of Deckard, a man whose dreams lead him to question his reality. It's the story of Rachel, a woman whose dreams are not hers at all, but those of someone else. In an odd way, it's also the story of a film critic's dream -- that of a different version of the film. A version, supposedly, closer to what director Ridley Scott had originally intended.
There are many stories circulating the re-release of Blade Runner. Who, why, what, et cetera. This latest release is called the Director's Cut, but I'm not entirely convinced that it is exactly what Mr Scott wanted Blade Runner to be. Most importantly, the ridiculous end of the previous version has been dropped completely. Whereas before the film made a stupefying attempt at a happy end in a sunny, country landscape to a film that had, during the previous 90 minutes, been set in a rainy, dark, gloomy cityscape, it now ends on a note of suspense. Rather than attempting to serve a quickly whipped up solution to the mysteries of the film, it now leaves the viewers to make up their own minds about Deckard's nature, the possible outcomes and the moral dilemmas.
However, what it gives with one hand, it takes away with the other. The Director's Cut has, unfortunately, also seen the demise of the voice-over. I'm firmly of the opinion that there's far too much said in the voice-over in the first version of the film, but to do away with them completely not only ruins the feeling of a science fiction film that's made as a tribute to the Humprey Bogart, 1940s, Philip Marlowe style of hard boiled detective films, it also leaves the audience with long, silent scenes that say nothing. It's impossible to filter out the knowledge of the first version when seeing the Director's Cut, but I'm convinced that a great deal of ''atmospheric information'' is lost in the removal of the voice-over.
All in all I mostly feel annoyed at this new version of Blade Runner. When I first saw the film it blew my mind and although I don't like all aspects of it, my enjoyment of it has only increased each time I've see it. The Director's Cut has ruined all this. It has shown me someone else's idea of what Blade Runner should be, and from what I've come to understand, it isn't even Ridley Scott's idea, but that of some film-buff who came across an early version in an archive. Why time and money should be spent on re-releasing this film, especially when the new version differs so little from the original one, is totally beyond me, except, of course, that it presents a fantastic opportunity for the film company to make a bundle of money for almost no investment at all. It is bad enough having to put up with all the sequels to films that we are bombarded with. I just hope that we won't see an Alien -- Director's Cut, a Total Recall -- Schwartzenegger Edit or a re-release of Plan 9 from Outer Space with a computer animated Bela Lugosi developed from morphing technology. Time will tell ...
In our busy schedule we managed to squeeze in a sneak preview of one of the odder science fiction films to premiere during the winter months: Sneakers. It tells the story of computer criminals, who illegally enter other peoples' computer systems, turned good. Crackers or hackers, depending on your computer literacy. The press, in all its wisdom, seems to have, erroneously, chosen the word ''hacker'' to designate such a person, sometime during computer medievalism, and with all the subtlety of a stampeding hoard forced its view of truth and greater glory upon the rest of the world.
Be that as it may, ''sneakers'' is supposedly the new buzz word for people who are hired by companies to penetrate their (the company's) computer systems, thus testing how secure they are against real, hostile attempts at the same thing. The semi good guys, sneakers, or performers of dirty work, will then supply a report on the computer systems' defences and demand a check, which we are led to believe is not one of substantial amounts. What makes the group in Sneakers unique is that not only is it headed by an aging Robert Redford, contains a conspiracy theorist that suspects a sinister plot behind the My Little Pony range and also boasts the initiator of the current trend of blind drivers in films, but it also possesses the highest gullibility rating of any single or group of characters since Little Red Riding Hood.
While the group are busy being taken for a ride, driven round the bend and having each of their collective ten legs pulled, we are treated to the latest in security technology. The single most impressive thing about this film is the security booth that checks a person's voice pattern before opening its second door and letting the person through; when a recording of an authorised person's voice is played back to quickly, the screen displays the message ''Please speak more slowly''.
As an interesting side note, Kårrullen showed Sneakers as the Swedish sneak preview at the beginning of the year. It was pointed out to me that of all the films that Kårrullen have shown as sneak previews, only Twins starring Danny DeVito and Arnold Schwartzenegger has been a box office hit once they have entered the normal cinema circuit in Linköping. Sneakers ran for about a week at Sandrews ...
The film that I'll remember from this visit to London isn't a science fiction film at all. It is, in fact, almost as far removed from a science fiction film as is possible. The film in question is a story of the importance of seeing beyond the exterior of people. A story of true love, scintillating romance, tormenting terrors, ghastly castles, odd friends and country life in France as portrayed by Disney. The film is, of course, Beauty and the Beast. As fairy tales go, this is as good as they get. It simply has everything that you expect of it. It is far from unpredictable, but when seeing a fairy tale, predictability is exactly what I want. What good is it if the princess doesn't get her prince, if Good doesn't conquer Evil and if the happy couple don't live happily ever after? None what so ever in my opinion.
I haven't seen the version available here in Sweden, but I'm told that it's quite good too. I find it very annoying, but not surprising, that Disney won't release both the English and the Swedish version in the country, so that you could choose which one you want to see. Disney may make very good films, but when it comes to customer service they have a few decades to catch up on. In Sweden, only two Disney films are ever allowed to be available at the same time and any given town may only show one of these. Add to this their ''limited time offer'' policy on films on video and Scrooge seems quite generous in comparison. I guess we'll just have to wait for Christmas ...
While you wait for the colonisation of Mars, peace on Earth, or the release of The Jungle Book on video, whichever may come first, take time off to sample other peoples' dreams, in cinematic form naturally. A trip to Nevernever Land is only a cinema ticket away.