6 January 2015 | Grethiwha
There's No Such Thing as a 'Minor' Sono Film
When I first watched Into a Dream, I must have been as sleepy as the main character, because, though I thought it was a good and interesting film, I sloughed it off as a 'minor' Sion Sono film, and sort of forgot about it. This isn't fair. What a uniquely fascinating and funny film this is! It may not rank in the upper echelons of Sono's filmography, but then, since Utsushimi in 2000, I don't think Sono has made a less-than-great movie.
This is, admittedly, some Takashi Miike-level low-budget strangeness. Released in 2005, the same year as three other incredible Sion Sono films, Into a Dream gets understandably overshadowed, lacking both the production values of Noriko's Dinner Table or Strange Circus, and the extreme energy of Hazard. However, Into a Dream isn't quite like any other film, by Sono or otherwise, and it wonderfully demonstrates his range and talent as a filmmaker.
The film features three parallel stories, three worlds that the main character occupies. In one, he is an actor, who has contracted an STD. In another, he is a member of a terrorist group, with a vague ploy to destroy Japan's cell phone networks. In the last one, he is being interrogated by the police. The different characters play different roles in each of these worlds. In theory, the one where he is the actor is his true, waking world, in which he dreams his friends and family into the others, however, just the same when he is the criminal, he believes the actor world is something he dreamt. Dream worlds feed into the real world, and encounters in the real world begin failing to make any objective sense. "Maybe this is a dream right now," he admits to his sister later in the film, "It seems like I'm always in a dream state."
Though not Sono's most visually accomplished work, this film is remarkable for its use of long takes; especially in the 'real' world, lengthy scenes will take place without a single cut. Moreover, this is the kind of story with a lot of opportunities for absurdist humour, and Sono does not fail to capitalize; this is a very funny film, with some very Sion Sono, insane and memorable sequences. The film's particular style and humour apex in a sequence on a train that is just fantastic.
Into a Dream is one of Sono's least accessible and lowest budget works, but the marriage of its multiple levels of reality and unreality, with its absurdist humour... it's just my kind of thing. It may not be one of Sion Sono's best, or possibly even one of his ten best (and even I needed two viewings to properly appreciate it), but it's an overlooked gem of his filmography, and it's a real shame that it hasn't even been released on DVD outside of Asia.