Vanilla Sky is, fundamentally, a movie about lucid dreaming. And there is something about it that only lucid dreamers will recognize.
From the opening credits where our main character dreams of soaring over New York City, to the incorporation of the sound of his radio alarm: "Open your eyes, David". The whole movie reflects the power of the conscious dreamworld and the merging of dreams and waking reality.
David wakes up - another day in his perfect life. He heads to work at the publishing empire he inherited from his father. But something is wrong with this picture: the streets of New York are completely devoid of human life. He runs through an empty Times Square, confused. Is this a dream?
David wakes up - again. A lucid dreaming movie wouldn't be complete without the odd false awakening now would it?
The movie progresses in a linear fashion for a while - but don't get used to it. David, a habitual womanizer, suddenly spies a gal he could actually fall in love with: Sophia. The egomaniac spends one entire night getting to know the captivating Sophia and becomes completely infatuated with her.
The next morning he makes the biggest mistake of his life. He gets into the car with his embittered ex-girlfriend, Julie Gianni, who is suffering a case of unrequited love. The result forms the foundation of Vanilla Sky, seeing David spiraling into a pit of self-loathing and pining after the relationship with Sophia that he just can't manage to forge.
The movie then becomes a complex web of interactions, jumping between the past and the future, where David finds himself re-telling his story to a psychologist, Dr McCabe. However, don't be fooled by anyone who says this movie is over-complicated. It's not. And I think I have a fair judgment since I still get baffled by a lot of guy flicks. Don't even ask me to tell you what American Gangster was about. I sat through all three hours of Denzel "one look" Washington and am still none the wiser. Ahem.
Throughout Vanilla Sky, there are a dozen clues which nod towards the final twist (and I haven't spoiled it for you by talking about lucid dreams). I would list them here but that would be a major spoiler. However, do look out for scenes containing Monet's Vanilla Sky, after which this was named.
"I'll tell you in another life, when we are both cats." ~ Sophia, Vanilla Sky
There are some concepts that non-lucid dreamers will miss during this movie. David finds himself unconsciously guiding the lucid dream scenes, which is perhaps why they turn out so disastrously for him. I think all lucid dreamers can relate to that when they have only partial lucidity - and can't understand why some commands won't work. We have the influence of the unconscious mind to thank for that.
I also liked the way inconsistencies feed through his life like a dream, which other people will simply put down to his temporary derangement. There is also a great scene where Tech Support enters David's lucid dream and shows him how to control the behavior of everyone around him. Lucid dreaming gold!
Best of all, I like the conclusion of Vanilla Sky. There is a subtle rundown of all the loose plot ends as David ascends into the sky - in what has to be the world's tallest glass elevator (a la Charlie and The Chocolate Factory). The entire life of David and those close to him are drawn into scary perspective as we realize the true purpose of this movie.
Vanilla Sky has a great supporting cast - my favorite of which were:
As the main character, Tom Cruise gets a lot of screen time. For some reason his face just annoys most people I know. I see what they mean. But that's a ridiculous reason to shun this movie altogether, which many do. Vanilla Sky is massively underrated, which sadly goes to show how few people actually know about or have a passion for lucid dreaming.
The soundtrack to this movie is great: bold and eclectic. It goes all over the place, featuring Radiohead, REM, Paul McCartney, The Monkees, Leftfield, Bob Dylan and The Chemical Brothers. I especially like the upbeat music when David has his worst breakdown moments. It becomes the soundtrack to his life.
This movie is the re-make of the Spanish original, Open Your Eyes, which also starred Penelope Cruz. Many people praise the Spanish version and say that Vanilla Sky is just an overproduced, glossy Hollywood re-make. I think both versions are good in their own right. You may find, however, that reading the Spanish subtitles in Abre Los Ojos impairs your movie enjoyment. Vanilla Sky also boasts the bigger budget, making for a more visually enticing feast.
My rating is 4 out of 5 stars. I'd give it 5 stars if only it appealed to a more people, but it simply doesn't. To that end my advice is: if you enjoyed Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind - you will almost certainly enjoy Vanilla Sky too.
Here's a good question. If a lucid dream is any dream in which you know you're dreaming, then why aren't we always lucid in dreams? Why doesn't it just become the default state of dreaming? Why do we accept our dreams of flying pigs and dinosaurs as an extension of waking life? What is the mechanism for defaulting to non-lucid dreams? Intriguingly, scientists have approached this question from three different angles./p>
What do blind people dream about? Can they "see" in their dreams? Take a look at scientific studies into the dreams of the blind, colorblind, and black-and-white dreamers. In 1999, dream researchers at the University of Hartford analyzed 372 dreams of 15 blind people. They found that both the congenitally blind and those who went blind before five years old did not have any visual dreams at all. That's because our dreams are made up of real world experiences and our innermost thoughts, anxieties and desires. So for someone who has never perceived images or light (or can't remember any) their dreams simply can't manifest visually.
Not long ago, scientists at Frankfurt University discovered how to produce lucid dreams with electronic stimulation. It was a world first. And - astonishingly - it worked in non-lucid dreamers 77% of the time. Now you can buy the same technology for yourself. The foc.us V2 - which delivers the proven optimum 40 Hz transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS) - was originally developed to increase working memory in video gamers and improve sleep.
As technology continues to move us towards more immersive dreamlike experiences, one can only wonder what digital wonders lay just beyond the horizon of tomorrow. We may also question just how the future of virtual reality will impact the study and practice of lucid dreaming. Are we, perhaps, the last generation to whom lucid dreaming will maintain an appeal?
Jeremiah Morelli is a whimsical fantasy artist and visual storyteller. He places conceptual fairytale creatures in vivid dreamscapes to capture the imagination. He's also a school teacher, and amazingly finds the time and motivation to create this huge gallery of artwork. Such light and dark fairytale paintings make beautiful places to visit in your lucid dreams.
Experts agree that everyone is capable of having lucid dreams. Dreaming itself is a normal function of the mind. We all dream every night, even if we don't remember. And we all achieve conscious awareness while awake every single day. So what does it mean to combine these states? Why, the amazing ability to have conscious - or lucid - dreams. Sounds simple, doesn't it? So why do I keep hearing from people who say they can't achieve their first lucid dream?