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.
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Books are a powerful way to increase our understanding and generate new perspectives. Good books are immersive and profound: they can change the way we live our lives. In teaching us new lessons, stripping away fallacies and inspiring independent thought, the following books on lucid dreaming are bestsellers for a reason - they are groundbreaking and thought-provoking reads to expand your awareness and develop your lucid dreaming skills.
Galantamine is best known for its ability to improve memory and provoke intense lucid dreams. Research by Dr Stephen LaBerge has found that taking galantamine intensifies your dreams on many levels, including cognition, lucidity, recall, control, bizarreness and visual vividness. If you want to boost your dream life, and maybe prompt some lucid dreams, it's worth taking the occasional galantamine supplement.
Why write a book about how to "hack" sleep? Well, I've suffered from sleep issues throughout my entire adult life. Sleep was such a tough thing to figure out. It didn't respond to willpower. I could beg and cry and kick and scream to myself to fall asleep, but my body would not listen. Finally, I realized that enough was enough and that I was going to fix this very important area of my life for good, or at least do my best to try. I spent nearly one year constructing a system to improve the quality of my sleep.
Humans are unique in our endless capacity for imagination. According to Steven Mithen, an anthropologist at the University of Reading in the UK, we needed to evolve seven critical mental skills before we could have imagination as we know it. Each of these abilities serve a distinct purpose in their own right, while imagination is the culmination of them all.
This dream starts out pretty violent but then suddenly goes all profound on me. I'm having a nightmare in which a thin, gray-faced man is trying to kill me. I become lucid and battle him with ease, firing shots of lighting out of my hands and hitting him in the chest. He falls to his knees and I lock him in a gated prison using only my mind. But then my lucid dream evolves into a lucid nightmare. Another villain, who looks like Krang (or Krang's body at least) from that delightful cartoon about giant mutant turtles, frees the gray man using his telepathic powers. I am no match for him.
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?