Saturday, February 12, 2011

Brainwave 2011: The Edge of Dreaming

It sounds like a good premise for a horror movie, but it is actually the basis for a very personal documentary. After dreaming of the death of her family’s beloved horse George, Amy Hardie awoke to discover he really had passed away in such manner. Shortly thereafter, she had a prophetic dream warning her she would die when she was forty-eight, mere days before her forty-eighth birthday. Major bummer. Understandably, this spurred an intense interest in the nature of dreams that precipitated Hardie’s impressionistic documentary The Edge of Dreaming (trailer here), which launches its New York theatrical run this coming Wednesday as part of the Rubin Museum of Art’s new Brainwave 2011 programming series.

At nearly forty-eight, the Scottish Hardie has much to live for. Happily married with three children (one from a previous marriage), Hardie had a successful (or at least busy) career making scientific films. She was not exactly the woo-woo type. Yet, when her late ex-husband appeared in a dream to warn of her impending mortality, it disconcerted Hardie, especially since she had already witnessed poor George’s passing in a similar nocturnal vision. Naturally, as a filmmaker, she set about documenting what might be her final year on Earth. Despite the spookiness of it all, the Hardie and her family go on with their lives, until she is stricken with a degenerative lung condition, seemingly on-cue.

While there is a certain amount of New Aginess (a Brazilian shaman turns up for the third act), Edge’s Jungian underpinnings take the film in some interesting directions. Hardie’s husband and children are also smarter and more engaging than the documentary-industry standard. Frankly, considering how much of their private lives Hardie filmed (or later recreated), one wonders if their patience had no limits.

Nicely constructed, primary editor Ling Lee poetically assembled Hardie’s disparate visuals, while Jim Sutherland’s underscoring themes are evocative, yet soothing. Though the director-DIY cinematographer has a keen sense of imagery, there are far too many scenes of pens scribbling deep thoughts on the pages of Hardie’s journal and the like, adding extraneous padding to the film.

If Edge sounds vaguely familiar, perhaps you are a regular viewer of PBS’s POV, which recently broadcasted Hardie’s film during its 2010 season. While the timing of its New York theatrical run is a bit unconventional, it certainly fits the Rubin’s Brainwave programming theme. In fact, the Learning Access style dreaming workshops Hardie will lead at the Rubin in conjunction with the screenings will probably be of greater interest to Edge’s target audience. (However, the mere fact that they are happening constitutes a rather obvious spoiler for the film.) Sharper and more artful than typical documentary excursions into the mystical, Edge will still be best appreciated by viewers who own at least one dream dictionary. It screens at the Rubin on February 16th, 18th, 19th, 20th, 23rd, and 26th.