The Pea’s Dream
The short film The Pea’s Dream is an elaborately visual and layered docu-essay that reflects upon the ecological moment we are living in today.
Narrated by a human voice, the story is ostensibly the pea’s dream – a parable and filmic journey through ancient ruins, mysterious gardens, dreamscapes and ethereal otherworldly plant images and thoughts.
Inspiration for this work is from two true sources. The story of a 19th century botanist (Richard Deakin) who undertakes a survey of plant life in the ruins of the Roman Colosseum, and recent scientific research using anaesthetised plants that questions our preconceptions of plants as passive greenery without agency or value beyond their service to humans.
In the film, a researcher anaesthetizes a pea plant, and proceeds to study it, probing the question of plant communication, agency, awareness and our shared evolutionary history. Meanwhile, the pea dreams of a time in its life when it thrived within the walls of a wild garden — in the ruins of the Colosseum in Rome. In the 1800’s the ruined building was a wild place containing hundreds of plants and fruit trees. The botanist, Deakin, documents the flora growing there at the time, and discovers that many of the plants were not native to Italy or Europe. How they came to be growing in the Colosseum is a botanical mystery that he sets out to solve.
Through Deakins story we explore the links from an apocalyptic time in the Roman empire to the development of botany in Europe and ultimately to our turbulent ecological times. Today the twin crisis of climate and biodiversity makes us aware of our precarious dependence on the planet, and our experience with the global pandemic demands that we re-envision our relationship to the natural world.
When the anesthetic wears off, the pea plant ‘wakes up’ as if it is regaining consciousness, and the dream ends. Does this suggest that the plant is conscious to begin with?
Ultimately the film suggests that plants have much more in common with us, and we with them then previously imagined, and that seeing plants in a new way – both culturally and biologically – is necessary to re-imaging a world that sustains both plant and human life.
A film by Su Rynard
Co-written by Helen Humphreys
Supported by The Canada Council for the Arts
September 21, 2022