Sleepless Nights at a Harry Potter Hotel?

By Leslie C. Halpern

This month (just in time for Halloween), the Georgian House Hotel in London opened two newly redesigned rooms intended to capture the magic of Harry Potter. Named “Wizard Chambers,” the rooms include details such as four poster beds, cauldrons, trunks, Harry’s glasses, and other items with a Gothic feel.

Hogwarts Sleeping Quarters

The bed and breakfast still features its other rooms, of course, but the Hogwarts sleeping quarters are gaining international attention, and conjuring up lots of reservations. Media reports say the hotel website was crashing this week from too many Potter fans trying to book rooms right after the news was announced, and the hotel’s Facebook fan page has seen increased amounts of visitors and “Likes.”

If you’re staying in one of these two rooms, attending the nearby “The Making of Harry Potter” tour, and watching the movie series in your room in order to fully immerse yourself in all things Harry Potter, then will that create overload, like a bubbling, troubling Shakespearean cauldron filled with too many toads, hairs, mushrooms, eyes, and feet?  I have to wonder what kinds of dreams all that Potter would produce during nights spent in the Wizard Chambers at the Georgian House Hotel.

Sweet Dreams

Wizard Chambers at Georgian House Hotel.

Wizard Chambers at Georgian House Hotel.

Although children might hope for dreams as sweet as pumpkin juice and butter beer, the world of wizardry is likely to inspire darker images. Maybe they would share Harry’s dream from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire where an old caretaker notices a light in an abandoned house he’s watching over. He then angrily walks to the house expecting drunken teenagers, but finds Lord Voldemort, Wormtail, and another man discussing Harry’s demise. An enormous snake slithers past the caretaker. Suddenly, the vacationing child wakes up terrified and covered in sweat.

Or perhaps an innocent young hotel guest goes to sleep after an exhausting day, followed by a late-night treat of milk and cookies, only to endure a dreamy flashback to Albus Dumbledore’s office where a frightening vision of the past awaits. Like Harry, the child asks Dumbledore within the dream if nightmares could possibly be something other than meaningless and random. The child wonders if the vision is a telepathic scene currently taking place or if it is a prophetic dream predicting a dark future. Again the child awakens in a panic – this time with wet pajama bottoms.

And the parents? Well, they’re probably having nightmares, too, about having to spend $300-$400 a night to stay there.

So if you decide to book a room in the Wizard Chambers of the Georgian House Hotel, bring your Harry Potter paraphernalia, favorite sleeping potion, plenty of money, and extra undies for the kids.




Dreams on Film Update: Wide Awake

By Leslie C. Halpern

One of the sources in my book, Dreams on Film: The Cinematic Struggle Between Art and Science is acclaimed documentary filmmaker, Alan Berliner. In the book, he Dreams on Film Front Coverdiscusses City Edition, a short film he made early in his career that uses a dream sequence.

Since Dreams on Film was published, Berliner filmed a new documentary titled Wide Awake that specifically addresses his insomnia, using sleep science and artistic dream sequences to convey his message. I interviewed him when the film premiered at the Florida Film Festival. We discussed his research, personal experiences, and filmmaking techniques. Highlights from the interview appear below.

Interview With Alan Berliner

Audiences are waking up to the talents of New York filmmaker, Alan Berliner, an Emmy-Award winner who examines his life-long struggle with insomnia in his film, Wide Awake. Insomnia can be caused by any one of about 80 different sleep disorders that plague millions of people. In the documentary, which Berliner directed, wrote, and narrated, he views his sleeplessness as a blessing and a curse. While he works 24-hour shifts feverishly cataloging movie reels and memorabilia, and editing (and re-editing) his latest projects, he realizes that most of the country calmly and quietly enjoys a good night’s sleep. “Since I am a card-carrying sufferer of insomnia, and an extreme night owl to boot, I had good days and bad days making the film — all of which made it both painful and comical when I was too tired to actually work on the film,” he says. Wide Awake film by Alan Beliner

Using old film clips and retro songs, Wide Awake tells the darkly amusing tale of how Berliner can’t seem to edit his internal movie screen, which runs 24-hour newsreels, features, and documentaries. He wants to fade to black, but can’t seem to turn off the projector in his mind. Berliner’s fascination with the connection between information overload, movies, and sleep began more than 25 years ago with his experimental film City Edition. He uses a newspaper printing press to begin the film, which consists entirely of a dizzying montage of found footage including old news items from around the world.

Each film clip connects visually, aurally, or thematically until a loose pattern emerges. At the end of the film, a man awakens and turns off his alarm clock, indicating the rush of dream images was only momentarily meaningful. “The purpose of showing the images as dream is to make sense of non-sense. The use of the dream sequence in City Edition is a way of linking the overwhelming array of information… that is inextricably woven into the experience of modern urban existence,” Berliner says.

A Factory of Random Juxtapositions

He takes delight in exploring the “factory of where random juxtapositions and implausible connections are and can be manufactured… every night.” That is, when he gets the luxury of actually falling asleep. Like many other artists, Berliner claims to do his best work after midnight. Also like other artists, he prefers to explore issues close to home. His previous films are more like personal essays than actual documentaries in that they ask more questions than they answer. The Sweetest Sound studies the universal relationship between a person’s name and his or her identity. Nobody’s Business is a warts-and-all look at his late father. Intimate Stranger recounts the life of his world-traveling grandfather; and The Family Album combines found footage from old home movies to make a statement about the role of family in our lives.

“These films are designed to transcend the specificity of the details of my own particular family,” he says. “In the spirit of the way that memoirs are supposed to work, my story becomes a window out to viewers that opens up a series of questions…and offers new ways of looking at themselves. I try to tap into the common levels of experience that people have.” Whether the common experience is maintaining family relations, realizing your identity, or just trying to get a little shut-eye, Berliner takes his position as personal essayist seriously. “I like to think that I have a contract with the audience,” he says. “They trust me enough to know that I never intend to be self-indulgent or sentimentalize. My films are open and honest and made in the spirit of opening a subject, using humor or irony when appropriate, with naturally occurring pathos.”