Is Red the Color of Dreams?
Posted on August 12, 2016
The box is bigger than I had imagined and I hurry to open it knowing it is the book I have been waiting for. I don’t know why I have waited so long to buy it, but something about this book scares me. Written almost a hundred years before being published for the first time in 2009, Jung’s deeply personal illustrated manuscript chronologues his struggle with madness and crisis after his split with Freud. It feels like an invasion into his private world–the family held it for years before agreeing to have it published–but curiosity and an renewed interest in his work made me finally order it. I open Jung’s Liber Novus.
Jung had a complicated relationship with Freud–when first they met they talked for 12 hours straight–and come 1913 they finally split ways over strong differences in belief, forcing Jung to examine and refine his thoughts. According to one critic, Jung experimented during this period with “deliberately evoking a fantasy in a waking state, and then entering into it as into a drama. These fantasies may be understood as a type of dramatized thinking in pictorial form”. Created over the span of just a few years in 1914-1917, this is his polished dream journal. Is this madness contagious?
It is amazing to think about how relatively new psychoanalysis as we know it is. David Selznick–who was a fan of psychoanalysis–urged Hitchcock to create Spellbound in 1945 because he wanted to increase peoples awareness of the practice. The movie is about repressions of the subconscious, and Hitchcock hired the already famous Salvador Dali to design a dream sequence for the film that remains one of my favorites.
The scene is somewhat theatrical and artificial, yet that quality helps it capture the elusive quality of the dream. Hitchcock said people thought he wanted to use Dali for the publicity it would create, but in reality he said it was because of his sense of vast distance and use of harsh lighting in his work that he thought would work for the scene. By the mid 1940’s the subconscious and the ideas of Jung and Freud were exploding in art and popular culture.
Spellbound is in black & white, but at the end the gun that is trained on Ingrid Bergman’s character, slowly turns towards the camera and for several seconds the screen flashes red, the only color in the movie.
Walt Disney also tried to work with Dali, but the project never went beyond development. Recently, some french artists have tried to recreate the film from sketches–but to me it feels more Disney than Dali. The two did remain friends–unlike Hitchcock who was turned down by Disney to use a location at Disneyland because Disney was reported to object to his movie Psycho.
Dali was also friends with the earlier American artist Man Ray. Man Ray had been living in Paris, but because of the war was forced to move back to the US from 1940-1951. He went to Hollywood, met up with other artists and in a little real life surrealism–Man Ray and Max Ernst had a double wedding in 1946.
It’s always interesting to find the influence of artists continuing not only into the future but into other mediums and popular culture. The arts are a collective dream that people share, influencing each other in the moment and in the future through the collected body of work.
Speaking of Ernst, two years after Spellbound came out in 1947, a very arty–art film Dreams That Money Can Buy directed by Hans Richter featured collaboration with his friends–contemporaries of Dali’s. One of the artists working on the film was Max Ernst and it features a scene with his piece The Robbing of the Bride.
I have always been fascinated by this painting, full of elusive primeval resonance. I was hit looking at this image how this work of Ernst was echoed in Alexander McQueen show Savage Beauty at the MET in 2011. Feathers, flesh, and the female form changed through artful massing and uncovering unconventional parts of the human form.
Spellbound featured one dream sequence in 1945–and 20 years later Fellini’s Juliet of the Spirits is a movie linked by a series of dream sequences. Haunted by visions that help her deal with the realities of her life, our heroine walks in a voyeuristic haze through life infused with her dreams. Fellini’s first film in color, his trademark blend of the real and the imagined parade a kaleidoscope of colors over familiar Fellini territory. The colors abound, but again scene after scene–there are the streaks of red.
I can’t leave out another dream movie–this one aptly titled Dreams by Akira Kurosawa. One thing I hadn’t realized until recently is that Kurosawa made elaborate design drawings before filming, the result of which are amazing works of art in their own right.
Suddenly I am seeing red everywhere, and I ask you–is red the color of dreams? Is it anything more than the artists love of the color of blood, wine and fire? Jung originally wrote notes in slim black volumes before compiling and wrapping it in red. The book has rubbed off on me, I have wandered my memories highlighted in red. The Red book–Liber Novus, is too large to sit on my nightstand and I am comforted that it won’t watch over me while I dream. I will study it’s knowledge a little bit at a time, knowing that each dream will continue to lead to many more.