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Films and Dreams: 

Tarkovsky, Bergman, Sokurov, Kubrick, and Wong Kar-wai



Lanham: Lexington Books, 2007, 176 pp. Paperback available.

Paperback: $24.00. Amazon



Read review in Parallax 2009                                                          Read First Chapter

Read review in Screening the Past

Master thesis on book Film och dröm (in Swedish)

Video in Spanish

"A candidate for being a bedside  book" Kultur Mafia

From the Introduction: 

Dreamtense and the Art of Film

In his book Visual Thinking, Rudolf Arnheim points to the interest represented by a fundamental link between film and dream which becomes evident as soon as it is seen in relation with Freud's dreamwork:


"Freud raises the question of how the important logical links of reasoning can be represented in images. An analogous problem, he says, exists for the visual arts. There are indeed parallels between dream images and those created in art on the one hand, and the mental images serving as the vehicle of thought on the other; but by noting the resemblance one also becomes aware of the differences, and these can help to characterize thought imagery more precisely." [1] 

To discuss dream theory in the context of film studies means moving from the original, clinical context within which dream theory was initially developed, to an environment established by primarily aesthetic concerns. For Freud, dream research was to be used as a technical means of discovering essential facts concerning the development of neuroses, mental diseases, and other phenomena diverging from "normal" mental life. In his General Introduction to Psychoanalysis, Freud presents the study of dreams as an explicit introduction to the Neurosenlehre. Aesthetic considerations have never been at the center of these elaborations just as they have never been central to psychoanalysis. Freud was aware of this but considered it rather a general tendency linked to the psychoanalytical idea, and not as a methodological problem: "The psychoanalyst is only rarely motivated to undertake aesthetic examinations, not even when aesthetics is not restricted to the doctrine of beauty but defined as the doctrine of sentimental qualities." [2]


In film studies it has been demonstrated that dreams can be (aesthetically) fascinating not only because their linguistic or structural elements can be traced back to elements which exist in reality. On the contrary, in films, the language of dream is an object of interest as just "another language," in the same way as one can be fascinated by language from another culture without having a particularly linguistic interest in it. Robert Curry writes that "... [dreams] show a vividness, originality, and insightfulness that quite escapes us in our waking life. If we compare our dreams to the fantasies of waking life, the latter reveal at a glance their stereotyped features and lowly origins in our desires and fears." [3]

"Botz-Bornstein displays a masterful degree of familiarity and understanding, not only of the concept in question but also of the concept's historical relativity....Film and Dreams contains a great deal of vital argument, which for formalist and psychoanalytic scholars of film should provide a great deal of impetus for much needed discussion." (Screening The Past, June 2008 )

"Botz-Bornstein's books display a superior capacity to engage—with rigour, application and insightfulness - in research projects dedicated to customarily neglected philosophical topics. In an English-speaking academic world dominated by over-specialization and institutionalized narrow-mindedness, Films and Dreams brings a breath of fresh air." (Parallax Magazine, June 2009 ) 

If we use dream theory in film studies, we are interested in dreams as aesthetic expressions and in the ways these particular expressions can be obtained. In the chapters contained in this book, dreams will be dealt with as such "self-sufficient" phenomena that are interesting not because of their contents but because of a certain "dreamtense" through which they deploy their being. 

Notes: [1] Rudolf Arnheim, Visual Thinking (Berkeley, University of California Press, 1969), 241. [2] Sigmund Freud, Gesammelte Werke (London: Imago), Vol. XII, 292. [3] Robert Curry, "Films and Dreams" in Journal for Aesthetics and Art Criticism 333:1, 1974, 85. 


Courtesy Esen Kunt

Cover of Turkish version Filmler ve Rüyalar trans. by Cem Soydemir (Istanbul: Metis, 2011) 

See also:  Thorsten Botz-Bornstein: Philosophy of Film

德思腾 博茨-博恩施坦: 电影与梦. 

Chinese translation of Films and Dreams published by Beepub translated by Hiu Chan (2015).



Introduction: Dreamtense and the Art of Film


1. From Formalist Ostranenie to Tarkovsky’s “Logic of Dreams”


2. Space and Dream: Heidegger’s, Tarkovsky’s, and Caspar David Friedrich’s Landscapes


3. On the Blurring of Lines: Alexandr Sokurov


4. Ingmar Bergman and Dream after Freud


5. A Short Note on Nordic Culture and Dreams


6. From “Ethno-Dream” to Hollywood: Schnitzler’s Traumnovelle, Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut, and the Problem of “Deterritorialization”


7. Wong Kar-wai and the Culture of the Kawaii


8. Aesthetics and Mysticism: Plotinus, Tarkovsky, and the Question of “Grace”


9. Image and Allegory: Tarkovsky and Benjamin


10. Ten Keywords Concerning Filmdream



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