Dreams are the subjects of books, movies, songs, and awkward conversations. They dominate so much of fictional storytelling, whether it’s an infamous episode of The Sopranos, the weird meat of a David Lynch movie, or a forgotten Gabrielle pop hit. But for all the talk about dreams, rarely are they portrayed vividly and accurately in popular culture (though that Sopranos episode came very close). A group of independent filmmakers sought to change that when they came together to make collective:unconscious, an anthology in which five filmmakers wrote and directed short films based on each others’ dreams. After playing the festival circuit, including SXSW and BAMcinemaFest, the film is now available for free online as released by the producer, Dan Schoenbrun.
The five filmmakers (Lily Baldwin, Frances Bodomo, Daniel Patrick Carbone, Josephine Decker, and Lauren Wolkstein) each adapted one another’s dreams into short films that vary in content, tone, and taste. As with most film anthologies, this one is also uneven, depending on one’s preference and tolerance for certain themes. Some are realized beautifully like an actual short film, others are a bit of a weird jumble that seems more fitting for a performance-art exhibit, and others can make the audience feel how they normally feel when people are describing dreams to them—bored, uninterested, and more than mildly confused. But it’s an interesting project and a clever (and unique) premise that yields some satisfactory moments throughout all of the segments. There’s also a ton of imagery and events that make for fun analyzing from Jungian and Freudian perspectives as well.
As for why it was released online for free, producer Schoenbrun told IndieWire:
It just feels right.
This project has always been a labor of love, and it’s always been about experimenting. During the very first conversation I had with the five filmmakers, we all agreed to make something as strange and as adventurous as possible, and not to worry about our commercial prospects. As a result, we think we’ve made something emotionally, politically and cinematically rich. We think, as Rolling Stone put it best, “‘collective:unconscious,” is “like nothing you’ve ever seen with your eyes open.”
And so now we want as many people as possible to do just that: To see it. But the truth is, that simply wouldn’t be possible if we put a dollar sign in front of it. Money is a representation of commercial value, and I’ve worked in the indie film marketplace long enough to know that realistically, our film has very little commercial value. It’s too strange, lacking the name talent and hooky premise an indie film requires these days to boost it to the top of the algorithmic listings.
The group behind the project also has created a deluxe version people can download that includes “the dreams each film was based on, liner notes, deleted scenes, a 41-song mixtape, a remix of the entire film meant to fall asleep to, and much more.” And thus it is for audiences out there to watch it for free and judge for themselves whether the experience was worth the price of admission.