The Art of Dreaming (2013) – By Philip Smolen

Since the death of her mother, pretty Maya (Kate Villanova) is having trouble sleeping. She is haunted by dreams and pursued by a demon (Walker Hare). Terrified, she turns to therapist Dr. Rebecca Campbell (Heather Massie) for help. Dr. Campbell explains to Maya that she must learn to control her dreams and not let them control her. That night, Maya confronts her demon, but rather than torment her, he explains that he’s there to help her to rule her dreamscape. With this ethereal help and that of a surrealistic insect queen (Dages Keates), Maya learns the secrets of lucid dreaming and takes control of this world. But shortly after mastering this power, Maya’s worlds begin to collide. Suddenly she can no longer distinguish dreams from reality. Even worse, the demon tells her that thanks to Maya, he is now able to enter the real world. Horrified by this prospect, Maya desperately searches for a way to regain control of her worlds before tragedy strikes.

I love dream vs. reality films and writer/director Bob DeNatale has made an eerie, enticing entry with his new 40 minute short film “The Art of Dreaming.” It projects a vibe very similar to the old classic “Carnival of Souls” (1962) and immediately got under my skin. DeNatale develops a very creepy and believable world where dreams and reality co-exist and blend together. Like most good entries in this genre, DeNatale keeps you guessing whether Maya is in the real world or the world of her dreams, and this inability to distinguish the two adds immensely to the mood and enjoyment of the film.

Kate Villanova is perfect as the vulnerable Maya. She imbues her with shadings of character that let you see into her splintered psyche. Later, as Maya’s confidence in her powers develops, Villanova lets that aspect of her personality triumphantly emerge. Walker Hare is also quite good as the demon.

If you are a fan of the dream vs. reality movie, then check out “The Art of Dreaming.” Though a little confusing at times, Bob DeNatale’s short is a fine artistic addition to this venerable genre. It sets up a beautiful, unsettling world, and then asks you to tell the difference between it and real life.

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