I had a dream last night that I saw an advance screening of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
And I was blown away by it.
Not because it returned me to Peter Jackson’s version of Middle-Earth is awesomely spectacular fashion, but because there was something about the film and its narrative style that Jackson had managed to keep under wraps.
The film was a narratively nested puzzle box in a very meta way.
On the first level, there was the actuality of Bilbo Baggins’ journey with Thorin Oakenshield’s Company of Dwarves.
On the second level, there was the story that Bilbo told Frodo, both verbally and in the Red Book of Westmarch which differed slightly from the first level.
On the third level, there was a charming sequence with J.R.R. Tolkien telling the story to his children as a bedtime story which put the story in terms that children in the early 1930s would understand.
On the fourth level, there was a sequence with a group of teenagers playing a pen-and-paper role-playing game that riffed on The Hobbit which put the story in a more high-fantasy setting.
And on the fifth and final level, there was The Hobbit done as a 16-bit SNES-style RPG, and what we saw on screen actually morphed into a pixelated fantasy and then pulled back to show us someone playing the game on a television in their living room.
It was an incredibly brave film, I thought. It was as much about the journey to Lonely Mountain as it was about the nature of storytelling and how it adapts to the teller, the listener, and the times in which they live.
It was a nice dream. A much better dream than I had Thursday night about a friend who was having a nervous breakdown.
Of course, I know that the film won’t be anything like that dream. Well, I don’t actually know — there’s an outside chance that Jackson could do something like that — but it seems unlikely. Peter Jackson doesn’t make Charlie Kaufman films.