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The Edge of Dreaming (2009)

This is the story of a rational, skeptical woman, a mother and wife, who does not remember her dreams. Except once, when she dreamed her horse was dying. She woke so scared she went outside... See full summary »



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Credited cast:
Phyllida Anam-Aire ...
Herself - Researcher
Claudia Goncalves ...
Herself - Shaman
Amy Hardie ...
Amy Mindell ...
Herself - Doctor
Arnie Mindell ...
Himself - Doctor
Mark Solms ...
Himself - Neuroscientist
Irving Weissman ...
Himself - Professor, Stanford University


This is the story of a rational, skeptical woman, a mother and wife, who does not remember her dreams. Except once, when she dreamed her horse was dying. She woke so scared she went outside in the night. She found him dead. The next dream told her she would die herself, when she was 48. Written by Anonymous

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Release Date:

16 February 2011 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

El límite de los sueños  »

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Surprising solid
28 June 2010 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

So a science-type woman starts having 'prophetic' dreams of her own demise? The blurb nearly put me off. I'm pleased it didn't.

Director Amy Hardie is not that particular brand of scientist that sees death coming and has a sudden conversion to faith or superstition. Nor one that, with the most basic of investigative tools, gets hoodwinked and later vulnerable to ridicule (as were many scientists who 'believed' Uri Geller until stage magician James Randi did exactly the same tricks but openly proclaiming them as professional performance). She's not even a scientist, so more credit to her for taking a scientific approach open to any sensible individual. Amy Hardie makes science instructional films. Edge of Dreaming shows she can also makes an excellent feature documentary. But if the film can be judged a success on its limited exploration of dream phenomenon, it can be judged an equally successful film in the way it creates a sense of intimacy with her beautiful family, and the emotional involvement she elicits in their home in the Scottish Highlands.

Amy has one of those dreams one night that is so vivid you stand up and shake yourself. She's dreamt their horse is dead. She goes outside and sees the horse has indeed keeled over (although observant viewers will notice a discrepancy of detail). Amy is shaken. They've had the horse for a long time. Added to which the dream was pretty upsetting. Her logical mind recognises there could be logical explanations as well as coincidence – something that is borne out later when speaking to a neurospecialist. She would have probably picked up subliminal signals both regarding the horse's poor health and also the horse's own sense that it was dying. As I recall, the horse had fallen on the opposite side to the one mentioned in her dream, which would further count against any 'supernatural' information received in her dream. Her feeling shaken by the loss is compounded by the dream.

The next dream is a prophecy from her previous partner, who died at a young age, telling her she will die in the coming year. Amy's health suddenly deteriorates. She discovers she has fibrosis of the lungs, which are operating "at about 60%," so the oxygen supply to the rest of her body is reduced. She stars reading Jung, a leading source of early dream psychology, and doesn't find it very reassuring. At one point she becomes bedridden. Firstly she recognises that, "things start to look very different when you're ill for six weeks." She rationally discount the dream but realises after some discussions (with what appear to be responsible scientists) that her brain – especially her sleeping brain – is still 'hard-wired' to believe it after what she's been through. This in itself could be having a psychosomatic effect.

Her illness is getting progressively worse. One particularly illuminating discussion is with a neuroscientist who explains the action of the frontal lobes and areas of the brain that are active or non-active in different states, including dream sleep. The dream has set up a damaging pattern inside her head and she wants to somehow 're-enter' the dream state and change the neural pathways.

Many people at this point might have experimented with hypnotherapy or any manner of fringe practices. Amy is more used to taking control of things herself. She is aware that some individuals can shut off their waking mind through meditation or other forms of trance. She discusses this with the doctor, who confirms that brain patterns have been verified for such states and that brain activity at those times is radically different – enough to support tentatively a number of hypotheses. She goes, with us and the camera, to a Brazilian shaman. The shaman helps her enter the dream state (it looks a bit like hypnosis to an outsider except she is fully aware throughout and experiencing the process with the shaman). The shaman prepares her by emphasising she must be fearless – again, it seems psychologically sound – how else would she challenge an imprinted pattern? Once she has re-entered the dream state, Amy challenges the 'prophecy' and its power over her brain. Afterwards she also realises that she never had the chance to 'say goodbye' to her first husband, the one who appeared in the dream. Psychopathology is always healthier after the cure has been completed.

Edge of Dreaming is a valuable contribution to such researches. It is instructive in demonstrating superb film-making with the most meagre of material. The variety of techniques used, both in terms of technical expertise and developing intimacy with the viewer, is instructive. It also produces rapt interest from beginning to end as one of the sanest and most balanced depictions of good family life in the frequently snowbound highlands, beautifully photographed and without sentimentality. It is interesting for its reflections on death and dying, both Amy's coining-to-terms with her own mortality and little gems like her sister who keeps some of their mum's ashes in a small decorative box and finds them comforting.

It touches only on the smallest area of its proclaimed subject. Several artists, for instance, have developed formal techniques for using the state in between sleep and waking for finding creative solutions (for example, choreographers seeking to fit components of a dance). There are other questions it sensibly avoids tackling, and there is no serious analysis of dream symbolism. But it is refreshing to see the scientific approach used to examine what is commonly termed fringe 'science' – and the life-and-death immediacy gives it a sense of personal urgency. Details of the experts she consulted are on the film's website, making for transparency. The tension to see if she survives is maintained to the end. Having survived both her illness and the year that the 'death threat' applied to, Amy says, "I still love science. It's just a bigger world, that's all!"

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