Dream Story – Arthur Schnitzler
Dream Story written by Arthur Schnitzler is a short piece of psychological erotic drama, written in a dream -like narrative, depicting a married couple’s trauma and subsequent understanding by confessing to each other their sexual fantasies, dream-like adventures and might-have-beens…
The novella was the basis for the late Stanley Kubrick’s “Eyes Wide Shut” featuring Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise. I saw the film before I read the novella and with hindsight I recommend seeing the book and the film as two separate pieces of work. In spite of preferring the book, there are scenes in the film that are absolutely brilliant thanks to Nicole Kidman’s amazing acting talent. I found the film more of a visual feast unfortunately unable to communicate the core message(s) of the novella. The book communicates an absorbing psychological drama loaded with meaning and issues of morality. It was easy to read Dream Story and I only fell asleep on a few occasions. The title or the length of the novella were not the only reasons why I chose to read Dream Story. It depicts a moment of time in Europe, when Austria was still living on the dreams of the Ottoman Empire and had suffered several humiliating defeats. The facade of a civilised society is still upheld but underneath the surface lurks decadence. In many ways, it feels similar to the times we are living in at the moment. Still, there is hope that after all the financial crisis and increased poverty, a shift will occur, a change for the better, towards a more generous and open society based on human values and truth rather than on speculation and deception in return for material gains. Returning to the novella, there is no doubt in my mind that the author was a selfish pervert who loved to exploit women both physically and psychologically and that he loved to create dramas. Dramas that often had dire consequences on his career as a physician. He often had affairs with several women at once, perhaps he was afraid of the thing he sought after the most: real intimacy with a woman. Perhaps the longing could only be voiced through analysing and dissecting the relationship between woman and man, and then finally take form on the page?
Dream story could also be an analogy for an internal poetic dream journey, externalized, where the main protagonist travels to hidden corners of the mind containing unexplored feelings of desire, jealousy, sexuality, danger, revenge, death and fear. Arthur Schnitzler was a member of the same group of psychotherapist as Freud who met on a weekly basis to discuss ideas. Apparently, Freud confessed in a letter to Schnitzler” I have gained the impression that you have learned through intuition – though actually as a result of sensitive introspection-everything that I have had to unearth by laborious work on other persons”. Somehow, I find it hard to believe that he learned through intuition when it is clear that he was an extremely active field worker.