15 May 2007
i usually try to keep track of my dreams and nightmares as a way of analysing possible base causes of waking thoughts or anxieties. while i was away this weekend, i had ana experience that's happened to me only rarely- a nightmare bad enough that i woke myself (and my mother) up with my own screaming.
there's no point in trying to explain what happened in the nightmare, since prose always robs them of their sinister power and reduces them to low-brow comedy, but i do find it strangely appropriate that the nightmare should have involved an enemy wearing a mask.
after all, dreams themselves are masked, with familiar, sometimes farcical imagery serving as a cover for underlying meaning. but what is more interesting to me is that the wearing of masks is actually just as common in waking life as it is in dreams. we all have disguises that we wear, an image that we project to impress or intimidate others, or something that allows us to defend ourselves, blocking access to our true interior workings.
popular culture is replete with images of masks. in a mainstream variant, all our superheroes are forced to hide their identities under ordinary exteriors. in perhaps his most brilliant work, edgar allan poe has death infiltrate the home of prince prospero wearing a disguise in order that he might blend in with the guests who are orgiastically celebrating their immunity from him. stanley kubrik, in his debatable final work eyes wide shut features a mysterious group, who gather to act out their fantasies in anonymity, where the greatest fear/ punishment is to be unmasked.
possibly my favourite example, and the one closest to the tone of my nightmare, of the use of a mask in film, however, is onibaba, where the hideous disguise eventually becomes more powerful than the person wearing it.