Thursday, December 2, 2010

Movie Review: What Dreams May Come

[Just something a little different. I may begin writing reviews for movies and music as well or whatever else tickles my fancy. Hope you don't mind too much! I will head each post with what kind of review it is so you can pass if you are not interested.]

In this visually imaginative paradise, director Vincent Ward delivers an adaptation of the 1978 novel by Richard Matheson entitled What Dreams May Come. It is no wonder that the film won an Academy Award for its visual effects and nominated for the Academy Award for Best Art Directions. Add to the beauty of the film, Robin Williams and Annabella Sciorra’s heart wrenching performance , and the story’s depth and portrayal of how far love will go and you will come out needing a box of tissues and the desire to create something beautiful in life.  It is not uncommon to imagine what awaits  beyond death or if there is even anything beyond death other than darkness, and as Hamlet said, “For in that sleep of death what dreams may come, when we have shuffled off this mortal coil, Must give us pause,” the afterlife may not bring peace.
            Robin Williams plays the protagonist Chris Nielson, as only Robin Williams could. The twinkle in his eye is ever apparent when he is seen caring for a sick patient and that silly grin present at just the right moments. Annie, played by Annabella Sciorra is strikingly beautiful and her art work exquisite and sophisticated which sets up a perfect medium for communication in the afterlife. When Chris and Annie’s children die in a car accident, Annie spirals deep into a depression with sorrow so thick that the tightness in her chest can be felt through the screen. It is only Chris that can pull her out of this depression and then suddenly as if the pain were not enough, Chris dies in a car accident leaving Annie emotionally stripped and physically drained of her former self.
            Chris wakes up in one of Annie’s magnificent paintings which completely transform the film into something more exotic, something startling and remarkable. Chris’s afterlife is an anything goes painting brought to life with remarkable landscapes and vivid colors, even more remarkable that Chris and Annie can communicate through the land and into Annie’s paintings. Chris longs for Annie to understand that he is still watching over her, which holding true to the novel proves to be a torment to Annie as she cannot understand what the ghost of Chris is trying to explain to her, rather she feels more depressed under the weight of his existence that is non-existent.
            Annie commits suicide and a slew of Dante’s Inferno references collide with Richard Matheson’s theory on what hell is like. Chris enters what is unmistakingly a replica of the twisted layers of hell described in Dante Aligieri’s fourteenth-century epic poem Divine Comedy. Chris must peel back the layers of Annie’s sorrow as she is condemned to hell for being a suicide case in order to rescue her and bring her to his paradise.
            The primary themes of What Dreams May Come are life, death, love, and afterlife, but a theme that was created only for the movie is the theme of parenthood. In the novel Chris and Annie do not have children so that element is completely unsheathed which does bring more roundness to the story rather than being a linear plot, the children incorporate more emotion and twist to the story. Ian, the son, feels as if he cannot live up to the expectations of his father and Marie, the daughter, just as much as Ian wants to please her father. Chris once commented that Asian women are graceful and intelligent and we later meet Marie in the form of Leona, a beautiful Asian who shows Chris the children’s realm in heaven. Albert, a man that Chris looked up to as a medical student, is Chris’s guide in the midst of things who is all knowing and informative, is actually Ian. Chris did not always appreciate his children and in the afterlife they change their appearances to be people that Chris admires so that they will listen to him. This adds an interesting element because among the sadness of the love story, a story of not taking people for granted arises.
            Amongst the sadness of the story a distractingly haunting film is created, one that deserves the title What Dreams May Come as depicted by Hamlet and captivated by the novel. The concept of afterlife and reincarnation is twisted along side of standard Christian views and shows signs of psychic and Wiccan counterparts, a recipe for a film that can touch the hearts of many without stepping on too many toes. Whatever ones beliefs, at the very least one can take away the striking images of the film and the sense of loss of a loved one. If this doesn’t make you hold your loves ones a little longer before you leave them, who knows what will. 

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