Brass Monkeys IV: Inside The Dream Land
Some years ago writer Nicholas Royle edited a collection of writers’ dreams – ‘The Tiger Garden’ , and I wrote about my recurring dream, in which I enter a baroque cinema and sit down in the auditorium, but never get to see the film being played.
At the abandoned mining town of Pyramiden, we reach a collection of communist blocks arranged around an eerily preserved Sovietski Soyuz community centre, which has a large cinema. Hundreds of reels of unexplored film are lying around in the projection booth – who knows what forgotten prints are here? We’re at 78 degrees N, and there’s really not much further you can go.
There’s an indoor basketball court and a ballroom. The colours are gaudy, reds, yellows and golds, no doubt to fight the long arctic nights. I’ve arrived at this surreal spot in almost perpetual daylight. Here Soviet couples raised children and lived communally until an accident killed over 160 souls and the town was abandoned.
The most northern cinema in the world is still hung with red velvet curtains and frozen flower arrangements. It’s something from my recurring dream that feels exorcised by the visit. The interior is unlit, so I don’t take ugly flash shots that will spoil it – it must remain in my dreams.
Our guard waits with his rifle while we explore. There’s a derelict hotel, the Tulip, where you can actually stay overnight. Its interior immaculate and unchanged, recalls the Kubrick’s Overlook Hotel from ‘The Shining’. Going outside brings a risk of encountering polar bears, though, so it’s best to remain at the bar and drink vodka.