Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Wittgenstein on dreams and film

Remarks from the Koder diaries (in Public and Private Occasions):
In one regard I must be a very modern person since the cinema has such an extraordinarily beneficial effect on me. I cannot imagine any rest for the mind more adequate to me than an American movie. What I see & the music give me a blissful sensation perhaps in an infantile way but therefore of course no less powerful. In general as I have often thought & said a film is something very similar to a dream & the thoughts of Freud are directly applicable to it. [pp. 29-31, May 1930]
One often thinks--and I myself often make this mistake--that everything one thinks can be written down. In reality one can only write down--that is, without doing something stupid & inappropriate--what arises in us in the form of writing. Everything else seems comical & as it were like dirt. That is, something that needs to be wiped off. [p. 35, May 1930]
And from the Conversations on Freud:
     Symbolizing in dreams. The idea of a dream language. Think of recognizing a painting as a dream. I (L.W.) was once looking at an exhibition of paintings by a young woman artist in Vienna. There was one painting of a bare room, like a cellar. Two men in top hats were sitting on chairs. Nothing else. And the title: "Besuch" ("Visit"). When I saw this I said at once "This is a dream", (My sister described the picture to Freud, and he said 'Oh yes, that is quite a common dream'--connected with virginity.) Note that the title is what clinches it as a dream--by which I do not mean that anything like this was dreamt by the painter while asleep. You would not say of every painting 'This is a dream'. And this does show that there is something like a dream language. [p. 43, summer 1942]
     It is characteristic of dreams that often they seem to the dreamer to call for an interpretation. [...] There seems to be something in dream images that has a certain resemblance to the signs of a language. [p. 45, 1943]  
     Suppose you look on a dream as a kind of language. A way of saying something, or a way of symbolizing something. There might be a regular symbolism, not necessarily alphabetical--it might be like Chinese, say. We might then find a way of translating this symbolism into the language of ordinary speech, ordinary thoughts. But then the translation ought to be possible both ways. It ought to be possible by employing the same technique to translate ordinary thoughts into dream language. As Freud recognizes, this never is done and cannot be done. So we might question whether dreaming is a way of thinking something, whether it is a language at all.
      Obviously there are certain similarities with language. [p. 48, 1943]             
I don't have much to say by way of commentary. I had thought that Wittgenstein said something about the grammar of film, which would have been interesting, but he doesn't. Still, perhaps it's worth bringing together these quotations in one place.                                                                                           

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