Monday, November 16, 2015

Dream Log: Real And Unreal Cities

Like many other people who have spent most of their adult lives in big cities, I grew up in rural areas, dreaming --literally and figuratively -- about big cities. Since I had spent very little time in big cities, my childhood dreams about them were, of course, quite unrealistic. For some reason, many of my dreams about big cities still have that same unrealistic quality, featuring a lot of really gorgeous-looking extremely-big buildings which have never existed.

Shortly before I went to bed last night I saw the latest episode of "Homeland." The episode was set mostly in Berlin, as is most of the current season of the show, and partly in Amsterdam. The establishing shots of Amsterdam, the wide-angled shots of downtown areas, clearly were really shot in Amsterdam. While watching the show I wondered how many of the scenes set in Amsterdam with Claire Danes and other major cast members were actually shot in Amsterdam, and how many back in Berlin. I was thinking, if that's fake Amsterdam shot in Berlin, it's pretty good fake Amsterdam.

Then this morning it occurred to me to wonder how many of the scenes set in Berlin might actually have been shot on a Hollywood sound stage, or in Canada, or Pittsburgh, or wherever. Part of the reason that more big-budget movies and TV are shot in southern California than anywhere else is because the area offers locations which can look like anywhere on Earth: the polar regions, the tropics, the Sahara, mountains, prairies, ancient Egypt, the moon -- you name it. And for over 100 years Hollywood has just kept on getting better at looking like anywhere. It used to disappoint me after I learned that so many movie and TV locations were faked. Now I just see it as one more aspect of film-making which can be done well or poorly, and I appreciate it when it's done well. Many movies set in NYC and shot in LA look much more like NYC than many shot in NYC. That's a fact. If any director has made a really good and convincing movie set in LA, with lots of exteriors, which was shot entirely in NYC, that director is an awesome genius. It's a lot more difficult than the other way around.

So anyway, I went to sleep thinking: Real Amsterdam? Fake Amsterdam? And maybe subconsciously I was already thinking: Real Berlin? Fake Berlin? (Clearly, a lot of it is real Berlin, including a fair amount with main cast members. I'm just wondering whether the Berlin in the show is 100% Berlin.) And I dreamed about a very unrealistic-looking Cologne, Germany. Way too many skyscrapers, and most of the other buildings were also unrealistically tall. Germany doesn't do skyscrapers the way the US does. 14 of the 15 tallest buildings in Germany are in Frankfurt, which gives it a skyline rivaling that of Cleveland, and not rivaling Chicago or NYC, or even LA.

So yeah, this dream-Cologne had an entirely unrealistic emphasis upon the vertical. Even in the dream I thought, Hey, is this Berlin or something? But the city in the dream was much more rife with skyscrapers than the real Berlin or even the real Frankfurt. It was more like the real Hong Kong, skyscraper-wise, than anything in Europe. (East Asia is doing skyscrapers even more than the US, these days.)

And the dream was mostly about a friend and me walking up and down and around on open-air staircases on apartment buildings way, way up in the air, among glassed-in skyscrapers, in nice short-sleeves weather with gentle breezes, visiting people who had big luxurious apartments with spectacular views of many skyscrapers all jammed together in an entirely unrealistic downtown Cologne. It felt a lot like we were flying.

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