Film Noir and the Battle of the Sexes

Film Noir and Dream Research

After studying at the University of Toronto in Canada for one year, I began my studies at the University of Zurich, Switzerland in the fall of 1975. I had previously traveled in Europe on a number of occasions, however in hindsight, I was oblivious to the cultural history and depth psychological (dream) idiom of Switzerland or Europe for that matter. I spoke a German dialect, which I learned in Canada from my parents and High school. Later I would learn to speak Swiss German, and have often been told by many Swiss people that they thought I was Swiss. From a poetic perspective, I am Swiss, although I do not have the passport to prove it. Europe and Switzerland are historically and culturally very different from Canada and North America, a fact I did not understand when I first naively moved there.

In 1977, I broke up with my Swiss girlfriend, it was my first serious adult relationship. The separation was traumatic for me and I searched for understanding of the romantic causes of the melancholy conflict that I was experiencing. I turned to dreams in search of answers. In this sense, I followed in the footsteps of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung who also turned to their dreams for psychological insight. Having had an interest in film since childhood, I turned to film as a literary helping tool to undertake detective work to explore and understand that which was obscured, obfuscated, concealed and hidden from vision. From the beginning, my notebooks took on a Film noir character, which became a primary dream metaphor and idiom for exploring this dark side of culture, both European and North American. In researching this cultural dark side, the detective work of my dreams and notebooks began to speak about the melancholy darkness caused by the perennial battle of the sexes.

Sexual Personae -or- The Battle of the Sexes in the Global Village

Many of the articles and interpretations posted at the International Institute for Dream Research (IIDR) website speak in the voice and vision of Film Noir; The Stuff Dreams are Made OF (read article). What I learned from my own as well as others dreams, was that I was not alone in having dreams about Ex-(girlfriends/boyfriends, wives/husbands). I would later label this dream/nightmare pattern, the "Ex-Files". Dreams sent to the IIDR since 1996, have provided insight into the fact that we today live in a "Divorce Culture" (read interpretation).    

As I would also later learn, I was not the first to use this modern literary method, even though it was not called "film noir" in the 19th century. Eugene Sue's "Mysteries of Paris" literary point of cultural entry into the poetic depths of the plotting of a nation, a city, a people uses the metaphor of prostitution as a film noir vehicle of the imagination to penetrate, travel below, descend beneath and navigate the ingraciating (putting up a front) surface personae rituals of society. Sue's melodramatic fiction, opens up the lurid and grotesque details of sexuality, money and deviance to our vision. As a human hyperbolic plot of the grotesque body, we are invited to see both as a spectator and as a witness the melodramatic contrasts of urban life, of civilization and its discontents. The dream interpretations, "The Dream of the Marquis de Sade: Part 1" and "The Sadean Gaze in Dreams: Part 2", provide insight into a decadent political geneology of the dark side of the battle of the sexes, Mario Praz surveyed of the idea of erotic morbidity and labeled the cultural pattern "Romantic Agony". This generational agonistic battle is ongoing in our dreams, read the IIDR interpretation "Mysteries of Dallas". Camille Paglia's Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Neferatiri to Emily Dickenson provides a history of the background of mask wearing and the battle of the sexes.

What insight and hindsight has taught me about my early dreams of the battle of the sexes, relationships and partnerships circa 1977 in Switzerland, was that in reality the battle was very real. Why? Women unbeknowst to me had only just begun to receive the right to vote in Switzerland. In the province of Zurich, Switzerland the year was 1969 when women were permitted the right to vote. I had grown up in country (Canada) where a women's right to vote had not been a political issue for some time. Said differently, women not having equal rights, was a foreign concept to me. I do vaguely remember the "bra buring" era in the 60's in North America, however I was barely a young adolescent and the protests had little historical or personal significance for me at the time. I also remember, I believe it was 1983, when women in the Kanton (Province) of Appenzell were given the opportunity to decide about their right to vote and turned it down. Thankfully, soon after the vote in Appenzell, the Swiss Federal government politically stepped in, giving all Swiss women the right to vote. In this sense, I have always politically identified with feminism, although not always with feminists who often have taken on radical rhetorical and political positions (illustrated by misandry) that only helps to fuel and perpetuate the battle of the sexes. The IIDR dream interpretation The Red Light District in the Global Village provides insight into the place called "No Man's Land", caused by the historical war and battles of the sexes.

The archetypal battle of the sexes rages in Europe, and North America, however it does not end there. I have seen dreams from Africans, the Middle East, the Philippines, Singapore, Russians to name a few places, where the same problems exist. It is a planetary problem, a social problem that continues to live on in the global village. Jean Starobinski "Jean Jacques Rousseau: Transparency and Obstruction", an interpreter of the work of romantic philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau, searches for the artifaces of hiding and deception from antiquity to the present. Starobinski attempts to trace our collective communicative devices of masks and ingraciation, which are used in an attempt to hide the truth. These deceptive devices are revealed and found working defensively in our dreams. Rousseau's solution to this social problem of the learned loss of innocence is to unveil and expose this dark side of culture by bringing and creating transparency. Dreams, much like film noir are the perfect vehicle for this task. Dreams can help restore transparency for those living in the global village. From an interdisciplinary medical humanities perspective, transparency can help to restore the health and ecology of the dream and the human condition. This human task is imperative for our collective future...our children's dreams.

All material Copyright 2006 International Institute for Dream Research. All rights reserved.