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Film and the Dream Screen

Film and the Dream Screen: A Sleep and a Forgetting

Robert T. Eberwein
Copyright Date: 1984
Pages: 264
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  • Book Info
    Film and the Dream Screen
    Book Description:

    Robert T. Eberwein uses a hypothesis from psychoanalytic theory to explore the frequently noticed similarity between dreaming and watching a film. His comprehensive study of the relationship between films and dreams explains the film screen as a psychic structure.

    Originally published in 1984.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5389-2
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-2)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-8)

    Many people have noticed that watching a film is like having a dream. Narrative elements sometimes seem to be outside spatial and temporal laws. The viewing conditions in the theater (such as the darkened room and the relative sense of isolation) are reminiscent of our solitary existence as dreamers alone in the night. The overpowering images on the screen sometimes frighten us and make us feel the same kind of paralysis we know in nightmares. In addition, films seem “real” in the way dreams do; in fact, their ability to make us believe we are a part of the action...

    (pp. 9-50)

    In part one, I present an overview of major dream theories before developing my hypothesis. Perhaps the desire for a sense of unity with the external world, like that unity established in our earliest experiences as dreamers, explains the motive for the birth of cinema. What Bertram Lewin calls the dream screen, the psychic structure that represents the mother’s breast, affords us a primal screen on which we perceive our oneiric world. The viewing of film on the cinematic screen when we are older revives the sensation of the dream screen, a structure that is in part a product of...


    • Section 1 A TAXONOMY OF DREAMS
      (pp. 53-90)

      The focus of the discussion now shifts from a theoretical investigation of the dream screen to a practical application of the concept. In this section of the study, we look at dreams that are generally identified as belonging to specific characters. The dream may be introduced and defined through the use of such devices as voice-overs, fades and dissolves, superimpositions, or shots of a sleeper followed by a dream. In whatever form the filmmaker chooses to present the dream, we understand it as a psychic projection of a mind made visible on the screen.

      At the moment that the dream...

      (pp. 91-139)

      We turn now to a detailed study of films in which a character’s dream screen actually appears on the cinematic screen we are watching: Buster Keaton’sSherlock, Jr.(1924); Alfred Hitchcock’sSpellbound(1945); Federico Fellini’sThe Temptations of Dr. Antonio(1961); and Ingmar Bergman’sPersona(1966). The presence of the dream screen in these films permits us to be involved even more intensely with the consciousnesses of the dreamers than we are with those discussed in the previous section. When the dream screen manifests itself on the screen, we find ourselves linked to to a character who is watching the...

      (pp. 140-191)

      Dreams in the films discussed thus far evoke certain kinds of responses in us, given their relation to the cinematic dream screen on which we behold them. The content of the dreams and the cinematic techniques used to render them can stimulate our recall of feelings and sensations we have had in our own dreams. In many cases we establish a particularly close bond with the dreaming character whose dream is played out on the cinematic dream screen we provide. When the dream screen of a character actually appears, as in the films discussed in Section 2, we are put...

  8. Conclusion
    (pp. 192-193)

    Our relationship to the physical screen in the theater as we watch any film owes much to our experience as nurtured infants and to our earliest dreams. Films in general seem both real and dreamlike because they appear to us in a way that activates the regressive experience of watching dreams on our psychic dream screens. The actual screen in the theater functions as a psychic prosthesis of our dream screen, a structure constituted by the mother’s breast, or a surrogate for it, and by our own ego.

    When films present actual dreams of characters, our relationship to the narrative...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 194-220)
  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 221-238)
  11. Index
    (pp. 239-247)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 248-248)