'Dreams Rewired': Film Review

Dreams Rewired Still - H 2015
Courtesy of CPH:DOX
A playful and provocative use of media history's scraps.

Tilda Swinton narrates a voyage through communication-tech history.

A time-warped essay film recontextualizing dusty old technologies as the Miracle of Now, Dreams Rewired reminds us both that our current preoccupations with fitting tech into our lives are nothing new and that something strange and game-changing certainly awaits us right around the corner. Its feature-length assemblage of found footage, unified by an original soundtrack and eccentric narration by Tilda Swinton, will be too much of a good thing for some art-house patrons. But auds accustomed to the work of Bill Morrison and other archive-combing meditation artists should respond warmly.

Directors Manu Luksch, Martin Reinhart and Thomas Tode begin with scenes, filmed at least a century ago, of teeming masses gathered for reasons we do not know. Speaking about the sudden disappearance of distance, of globe-spanning connections made in a moment, Swinton appears to be describing the age of the Internet; but with the specifics artfully omitted, we wonder: Could these very words have been used by those marveling at the telegraph?

Using clips from countless films drawn mostly from before WWII, the picture then grows less vague, showing or at least alluding to the progress of technology from telephony and early motion-picture devices to radio and TV. We're often reminded, though, of the prescience of early storytellers. In clips of films by Melies' peers, we see imagined devices that eerily replicate modern telecommunication.

The script prefers evocation over prosaic storytelling, engaging in specifics only once or twice (as in the case of an early television experiment); it also allows Swinton to puckishly employ the occasional bit of present-tense slang, as when she imagines a fan of one of the earliest matinee idols cooing that he's "off the hook." But the most intriguing anachronisms are real: The filmmakers find clips proving that even now-obsolete inventions stirred the same worries over surveillance and malfeasance we're obsessed with now. Which forces one to wonder: What horrific-slash-miraculous device will, two decades from now, make the Snowden era's worries seem quaint?


Production: Amour Fou FilmProduktion, Bilschon FilmProduktion, Ambient Information Systems

Directors-screenwriters: Manu Luksch, Martin Reinhart, Thomas Tode

Music: Siegfried Friedrich


Not rated, 87 minutes