Kurosawa, van Gogh, and Chopin, and the Permanence of Dreams

Vincent van Gogh: Wheatfield with Crows. Auvers-sur-Oise, France, 1890.

Vincent van Gogh: Wheatfield with Crows. Auvers-sur-Oise, France, 1890.

This is the first scene of the fifth part, “Crows,” of Kurosawa’s 1990 film “Dreams,” based on the director’s actual dreams. Its production was assisted by Lucas, Coppola, and Spielberg. Kurosawa was 80 at the time, and this was his third to last of his films. The music by Chopin is the 15th prelude of Op. 24, the “raindrop” prelude with the repeated A flat; written in 1838 in Majorca. There, writes George Sand, with whom he lived on Majorca, Chopin, while playing his piano had a dream: “He saw himself drowned in a lake. Heavy drops of icy water fell in a regular rhythm on his breast, and when I made him listen to the sound of the drops of water indeed falling in rhythm on the roof, he denied having heard it. He was even angry that I should interpret this in terms of imitative sounds. He protested with all his might – and he was right to – against the childishness of such aural imitations. His genius was filled with the mysterious sounds of nature, but transformed into sublime equivalents in musical thought, and not through slavish imitation of the actual external sounds.” “Wheatfield with Crows” was amongst van Gogh’s last, perhaps the last, painting by the artist, who suicided in 1890, one hundred years before Kurosawa created this film.

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