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Below the Beltway

DreamWorks This Ain't

Seinfeld isn't the only one who can make a show about nothing

By Gene Weingarten
Sunday, March 20, 2005; Page W35

One night recently I sat at my computer, unable to get started on an article I was writing about the economic viability of the Russian space program. So I decided to visit a mall. On the escalator, I was standing behind a woman who was talking sternly to a little girl, but I couldn't hear what she was saying. I decided to purchase laundry detergent. But I went into a shoe store instead, and the salesman told me the store did not carry detergent. I realized I was in Denver, though I wasn't sure why. I went outside. It began to rain, but not very hard, just an inconsequential drizzle.

Are you asleep yet? Well, I was. This is how I dream: long, pointless narratives that start insignificantly, slog through meaningless details in textureless surroundings, and end without resolution. No sex. No danger. No guilt. No intrigue. If Freud was right that dreams are unfulfilled longings, then I apparently long to be bored witless.

(Eric Shansby)

I once dreamed about being unable to fall asleep. That lasted for hours; I awoke exhausted. I have dreamed about eating dinner, forkful by forkful, usually something bland like macaroni and cheese. I have dreamed about refinishing furniture. Using spell-check. Going to the bathroom.

I used to be embarrassed by my dreams, but no more. That is because I just got off the phone with Lars von Trier, the reigning genius of European avant-garde filmmaking. I reached him at his studio in Hvidovre, Denmark. Von Trier's films have been described as being filled with "doom-haunted surrealism" and containing "a distinctive blend of film noir and German Expressionism." He directed "Dogville," with Nicole Kidman.

I described my dream about the mall and escalator and shoe store, exactly as I wrote it above, and asked him if it might make a good movie.

Lars: So, you are pitching it?

Me: Exactly.

Lars: Well, it is very good, a very good picture. We just need to make it a little more dreamlike.

Me: More dreamlike?

Lars: Yes, avant-garde is taking things that are very clear and making them difficult, as opposed to American filmmaking, which is making difficult things simple. It is good that you have only a light drizzle. It is very European that it rains only a little. I like it. In an American film, it would rain very much. I could make the film. It would get a lot of support from European countries, much funding from Europe. They would give me a lot of money, but there would be no spectators at all.

Me: Spectators?

Lars: No one would come to see the film. But that is good. It would tell me I am on the right track. We European filmmakers feel we are better than our audiences.

Me: Wow. Can I tell you a dream I had last night?

Lars: Yes, please.

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