Reflections, refractions, resemblances, and reminiscences--all of these occur in the subconscious wonderland that is the dream world of Albert Gabriel Nigrin’s new experimental film Dream Screen.
Dreamscapes and the unconscious recurrence of figures have been a hallmark of experimental film, perhaps most notably seen in Maya Deren’s 1943 experimental film Meshes of the Afternoon. This surrealist film embarks on a journey of one woman’s anxieties and nightmares, as time warps, spaces lose form, and she sees herself in various dimensions. Nigrin’s Dream Screen is reminiscent of Deren’s film but provides a fresh take on subconscious personas and visions of slumber in experimental cinema.
Like Deren, Nigrin utilizes mirrors as both a narrative and a visual driver in the film. At the beginning of the film a woman lies sleeping, and the audience enters into her dreams. Yet inside of her dreams lies the same woman, dreaming about herself and her own dreams. It is this mirror, and the subsequent refractals and reflections that stem from it that allow the viewer to grasp hold of the multifaceted nature of the film. Each mirror displays another alternate version of herself, each collectively shining light onto each other and the next. Like the infinity mirror effect where reflections and configurations seem to stretch on indefinitely towards eternity, the repetition of these versions of the woman and the mirror she holds create a surrealist rabbit hole for the viewer to fall down into. Yet as these repeated figures of the woman weave between fantasy and reality, the mirror that each one holds in her hands starts to reflect sunlight and to awaken them from their surreal slumber.
As the women traverse nature and city, cross rivers, and maneuver around canals, the line between dreamscape and the tangible world begins to blur. As the fantastical and the material intertwine, the fusing of these separate universes are paralleled in the medium of Dream Screen itself. Shot on both Super 8mm film and digital video, the film is an amalgamation of various landscapes and finishes, both textually and texturally. This further adds to the surrealist, experimental dream quality of the film, given that the audience does not know what is real or imagined, past or present, subconscious or unconscious. The mixing of filmic materials reinforces the combinations and juxtapositions that are at play throughout Dream Screen.
Stemming from the title, screens are a motif that recur throughout Nigrin’s film. Whether it be a veil that screens the camera from fully seeing the woman, or the screen of a window showing a buzzing fly and lightning striking, screens bestow another layer to the viewing experience of Dream Screen. Whether these screens keep things out or keep things in, protect or imprison, is up to the interpretation of the individual viewer. Regardless, screens as a symbol in the film create a barrier and a surface that highlight the complexities and depths involved with dreaming. The subconscious is not merely a two-dimensional space, but rather vast and all-encompassing. The screens remind the viewer of reality while also distinguishing the uniqueness of the dreamscape.
In turn, the film has a notable sense of movement, specifically centered around rotation and repetition, that drives the narrative forward. Similarly, Dream Screen’s soundscape is composed with a dynamic movement as well. The tones of morse code and sonar propose a circular effect that mimics the motion of the camera, sending echoes in search of a presence below the surface. The soundtrack is also comprised of a persistent droning that adds another otherworldly element to the film, underscoring the dreamscape of the film as well as the recurring elements of the woman, the mirror, etc.
Dream Screen, directed by Albert Gabriel Nigrin, is an abstract atmospheric venture into the world of dreams, showcasing the strength of surrealist and experimental film in a study of the subconscious. The film will be screening at the United States Super 8 Film + DV Festival/Spring 2024 New Jersey Film Festival but will be shown out of festival competition on Sunday, February 18th. The film will be available for viewing online for 24 hours on this showdate and will also be shown in-person at 5:00 PM in Voorhees Hall #105/Rutgers University, 71 Hamilton Street, New Brunswick, NJ. Tickets are available for purchase here.
All photos ©2024 Albert Gabriel Nigrin and feature Katie Scrivani.