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Celluloid Dreams: Dreams on film

Roslyn Hull

Dreams are often used in films to signify a psychotic break with reality — the dream is the only way to cope. And these films can be very dark indeed.

In honour of HerCanberra’s Magazine: The Dream Issue, here are my top picks for dreams on film.


Still, dreams can have a lighter side. The best example being The Wizard of Oz, which cleverly linked Dorothy’s real-world experiences to her magical ones in Oz.


Mulholland Drive, by David Lynch, is just as dark as you would expect, with Naomi Watts giving a vulnerability that makes the twist even worse. Better still, the film has just been named as the BBCs top film of the 21st Century by critics.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

The way Jim Carrey’s dreaming self fights back against the loss of memories – both hilarious and painful – made Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind a very rich film


The richest dream life in any movie, for me, is that in Tarsem Singh’s The Fall. It is wonderful to watch and gorgeous to look at.


The best use of this device is Shutter Island, where Leonardo DiCaprio’s dream break with reality is his way of coping with unimaginable pain and the denouement is heartbreaking.


This same dark device is at the core of Life of Pi but somehow the story manages to take us in a positive direction, helping us understand why Pi did what he did, before we understand what.

You can read this article in full and more in our latest edition of Magazine: The Dream Issue. Available for free while stocks last. Click here to find your closest stockist.



Ros Hull

Roslyn is a writer and storyteller who loves all things Canberra, her family, sci fi and movies – but not in that order. She has worked in museum education since 2001 and has a passion for imparting knowledge to others. Writing is her happy place, particularly if there is a dog at her feet and a coffee in her hand. More about the Author