Dreams are the touchstones of our character.

-Henry David Thoreau

Dreams are something that unites all of mankind. We all have dreams- sweet dreams, bad dreams, nightmares and even daydreams. How many times have we wondered about the meaning of a dream? Or why we had the dream… or why we have any dream at all. What is the reason, purpose and meaning of them? Baffled by these same questions, scientists have for long tried to find the answers, with little success- if any at all.

Wikipedia defines them simply as “successions of images, ideas, emotions and sensations that occur involuntarily in the mind during certain stages of sleep.” They occur during the stage of sleep called Rapid Eye Movement (REM) when brain activity is high and resembles that of being awake. They may be over in the matter of seconds or stretch on for 20 minutes. Frightening, exciting, magical, melancholic, adventurous- dreams are of varying natures. And with the exception of lucid dreaming, they are generally outside the control of the dreamer.

Dreams have been known to be the inspiration for many creations and discoveries. The riddle of the structure of benzene was solved when August Kekule saw a vision of a snake biting its own tail. Fortune favours the worthy though. Not many of would have bothered about what a snake in a dream was trying to tell us. The Twilight series and Frankenstein are the products of wondrous dreams as well. Movies like Stuart Little and the Terminator have the same source of inspiration. These stories make us think- perhaps we should take our dreams a little bit more seriously.

Perhaps the best creation involving dreams was Christopher Nolan’s movie “The Inception”. With concepts like dreams within dreams and the art of inception itself (which involves planting an idea into someone’s mind while they are asleep), it is one of the most complex plots ever created. Interestingly, Leonardo DiCaprio, who played the movie’s main character, Dom Cobb, also had lucid dreams before starring in the movie. Visions of future or hands of fate?

Various theories have come up about dreams. One theory suggests that dreams are the result of our brains trying to interpret external stimuli during sleep. For example, the sound of the radio (or your mother’s shouts) may be incorporated into the content of a dream . Another theory uses a computer metaphor to account for dreams. According to this theory, dreams serve to ‘clean up’ clutter from the mind, much like clean-up operations in a computer, refreshing the mind to prepare for the next day. Yet another model proposes that dreams function as a form of psychotherapy. In this theory, the dreamer is able to make connections between different thoughts and emotions in a safe environment. What, then, is the right answer? A mix of all these? Or something entirely different?

Someday we will find out. Or we may not. Dreams, however, will continue. As will the stories of inspirations we get from them. The true meaning of dreams in our lives is something that science cannot answer. How dreams affect our lives- we alone can decide. And how our lives, in turn, affect our dreams, no one can say. Perhaps we should stop grappling at an answer that’s like a wisp of smoke- beyond our grasp. Or maybe we are asking the wrong questions. What, indeed, is the stuff that dreams are made of? Dream on!

The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.

-Eleanor Roosevelt

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Nolan, Sans Batman

Christopher Nolan
, courtesy of the Dark Knight Trilogy, is a household name these days. Idolized by fan-boys and superhero-junkies alike, his take on Gotham’s masked messiah shattered all prior box-office records (not to forget the rave reviews). A cult phenomenon was thus established. It wasn’t soon before the quotable quotes from the trilogy done to death and used in every contorted fashion plausible. When I talk to people about Nolan, it transforms instead to a discussion on Batman. And Inception once in a while.

The reality is that these blockbusters are simply the tip of the iceberg. This article is anything but a Batman geek-out. It’s an appreciation of his genius and his lesser known masterpieces. 

The golden rule Nolan adopts is to always leave his audience dangling. He respects his audience as capable, conscious individuals who desire to be intellectually challenged. A classic example of this trademark Nolan style is the notorious spinning totem scene at the end of Inception. It leaves the plot open to interpretation and speculation, thus involving audience much more than your average director would.

Here is a run-down of the movies that made me realize how weak (relatively) TDRK was. These films deserve (and indeed demand) to be appreciated through multiple sittings. So grab your popcorn and thinking hat-prepare to be blown away!

“Are you watching closely?”- The Prestige (2006)
This would probably rank as the most tragically underrated movie in Nolan’s kitty. On the surface, the plot deals with the disastrous rivalry between two magicians (played ever so deftly by Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale). But once you delve into the cinema, you realize more questions pop up than answers.
It portrays human nature and emotion in its most raw form, smothering the screen with betrayal, passion, jealousy and revenge. This flawless film remains my favourite Nolan creation to date.

“I have this condition.”- Memento (2000)
If there ever is a film that would leave your head spinning, it’s Memento. Sadly, all it is recognized for is being the inspiration for the Hindi film, Ghajini. Starring the prolific Guy Pearce as a man with anterograde amnesia, it highlights his vengeful hunt for his wife’s murderer. Not only does it adopt a neo-noire style, but it also presents the tale from the point-of-view of an amnesiac. The story intertwines both forward and reverse chronology narrative, thus presenting to the viewer a jigsaw puzzle, in its most literal sense. In fact, there are websites and blog posts dedicated to dissecting and analyzing the plot. Good luck with that.

Memento, in a nutshell.

“Let me sleep. Just let me sleep.”- Insomnia (2002)
As the successor to Memento, which was an oddball even by Hollywood standards, Nolan decided to go with a remake. Insomnia is his rendition of the Norwegian film of the same name. Here, two detectives are sent to Alaska (where the sun never sets) to investigate a teen murder. Starring Al Pacino and Robin Williams, this film is often referred to as Nolan’s forgotten film. With a storyline so tight and cinematography so adept, underrated would sum it up effectively.


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