What Dreams May Come (film)
|What Dreams May Come|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Vincent Ward|
|Produced by||Stephen Deutsch
|Screenplay by||Ronald Bass|
|Story by||Richard Matheson|
|Based on||What Dreams May Come
by Richard Matheson
Cuba Gooding, Jr.
|Music by||Michael Kamen|
|Editing by||David Brenner|
|Distributed by||PolyGram Filmed Entertainment (thru Universal Studios)|
|Running time||113 minutes|
What Dreams May Come is a 1998 American drama film, starring Robin Williams, Cuba Gooding, Jr., and Annabella Sciorra. The film is based on the 1978 novel of the same name by Richard Matheson, and was directed by Vincent Ward. The title is from a line in Hamlet's "To be, or not to be" soliloquy. Some imagery in the film is based on Inferno, the first part of Dante Alighieri's 14th-century epic poem Divine Comedy. The film suffered at the box office and received mixed reviews but won the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects and the Art Directors Guild Award for Excellence in Production Design. It was also nominated for the Academy Award for Best Art Direction.
While vacationing in Switzerland, American physician Chris Nielsen (Robin Williams) meets artist Annie Collins (Annabella Sciorra). They are attracted to each other, and bond as if they had known each other for a long time. They marry and have two children, Ian (Josh Paddock) and Marie (Jessica Brooks Grant). Their idyllic life ends when the children die in a car crash. Life becomes difficult: Annie suffers a mental breakdown and the couple contemplates divorce, but they manage through their losses.
On the anniversary of the day they decided not to divorce, Chris is killed in another car crash. Unaware that he is dead, and confused that no one will interact with him, Chris lingers on Earth. He sees Annie's attempts to cope with his loss and attempts to communicate with her, despite advice from a presence that this will only cause her more pain. When his attempts cause more sorrow, he decides to move on.
Chris awakens in Heaven, and learns that his immediate surroundings are controlled by his imagination. He meets a man (Cuba Gooding Jr.) he recognizes as Albert, his friend and mentor from his medical residency, and the presence from his time as a "ghost" on Earth. Albert will guide and help in this new afterlife. Albert teaches Chris about his existence in Heaven, and how to shape his little corner, and to travel to others' "dreams". They are surprised when a Blue Jacaranda tree appears unbidden in Chris' surroundings, matching a tree in a new painting by Annie, inspired by Annie's belief that she can communicate with Chris in the afterlife. Albert explains that this is a sign that the couple are truly soul mates. Annie decides that Chris cannot "see" the painting, however, and destroys it. At the same time, Chris sees his version of the tree disintegrate before his eyes.
Chris laments that he can no longer see his wife and soon encounters a woman who he comes to recognize as his daughter Marie, living in an area resembling a diorama that she loved in her lifetime. The two share a tearful reunion.
Meanwhile, Annie is unable to cope with the loss of her husband and decides to commit suicide. Chris, who is initially relieved that her suffering is done, grows angry when he learns that those who commit suicide go to Hell; this is not the result of a judgment made against them, but rather their own tendency to create "nightmare" afterlife worlds based on their pain. Chris is adamant that he will rescue Annie from Hell, despite Albert's insistence that no one has ever succeeded in doing so. Albert agrees to find Chris a "tracker" to help search for Annie's soul.
On the journey to Hell, Chris recalls his son, Ian. Remembering how he'd called him the one man he'd want at his side to brave Hell, Chris realizes that Albert is Ian. Ian explains that he chose Albert's appearance because he knew that Chris would listen to Albert without reservation. Before they part, Ian begs Chris to remember how he saved his marriage following Ian and Marie's deaths. Chris then journeys onward with the tracker.
After traversing a field of the faces of the damned, they arrive at a dark and twisted version of Chris and Annie's house. The tracker then reveals himself as the real Albert and warns Chris that if he stays with Annie for more than a few minutes he may be permanently trapped in Hell, advising that all Chris can reasonably expect is an opportunity for a final farewell to Annie.
Chris enters the house to find Annie suffering from amnesia, unable to remember her suicide and tortured by her decrepit surroundings. Unable to stir her memories, he "gives up", but not as the tracker hoped; he chooses to join Annie forever in Hell. As he declares to Annie his intent to stay, his words parallel something he'd said to her as he left her in an institution following the children's deaths, and she regains her memories even as Chris is succumbing to her nightmare. Annie, wanting nothing more than to save Chris, ascends to Heaven, bringing Chris with her.
Chris and Annie are reunited with their children in Heaven, and all appearances are restored. Chris proposes reincarnation, so he and Annie can experience life together again. The film ends with Chris and Annie meeting again as young children in a situation that parallels their first meeting.
- Robin Williams as Dr. Christopher (Christy) Nielsen
- Cuba Gooding, Jr. as Albert Lewis
- Annabella Sciorra as Annie Collins-Nielsen
- Max von Sydow as The Tracker
- Jessica Brooks Grant as Marie Nielsen
- Josh Paddock as Ian Nielsen
- Rosalind Chao as Leona
- Lucinda Jenney as Mrs. Jacobs
- Maggie McCarthy as Stacey Jacobs
What Dreams May Come was shot largely on Fuji Velvia film and is one of few films to have been filmed in this manner. The Fuji Velvia film is known among landscape photographers for its vivid color reproduction. Filming locations include places in Marin County, Alameda County, and Glacier National Park. Part of the "Hell" sequence was filmed on the decrepit hull of the Essex class aircraft carrier USS Oriskany (CV-34) while berthed at Mare Island in Vallejo, California. The ship was later sunk to make an artificial reef on May 17, 2006.
The special edition DVD shows an alternate ending — the ending from the novel — in which the reincarnation is not a choice, but part of the natural order. Chris and Annie will meet again in their new lives, but Annie must atone for killing herself — her new incarnation will die young, and Chris will spend the remainder of this life as a widower before the two are again reunited in Heaven. The film then goes to Sri Lanka where a woman is giving birth to a girl, presumed to be Annie. In Philadelphia, a boy is born, presumably Chris. This ending was roughly edited and unfinished.
Differences from the novel
||This article possibly contains original research. (September 2007)|
The novel is significantly different from the film, in plot and the vision of the afterlife. The novel's approach to the love story is less sentimental, its tone more scientific than fantastic.
There are far more references to Theosophical, New Age and paranormal beliefs. The author Richard Matheson claims in an introductory note that only the characters are fictional, and that most everything else is based on research (the book includes an extensive bibliography). Story elements that are not in the film include astral projection, telepathy, a séance, and the term "Summerland" (a name for a simplified Heaven in Theosophy, and for Heaven in general in religions such as Wicca).
The details of Chris's life on Earth differ strongly in the novel. Only Chris and his wife (called Ann) die. Their children, who are grown rather than youngsters, remain alive, as minor characters. Albert and Leona are the people they appear to be, and the character played by Max Von Sydow does not appear in the book. Albert is Chris's cousin and not African American as in the film, while Leona's ethnicity is not divulged. Chris and Ann are rural types rather than the urbanites portrayed in the film, and he is not a pediatrician, nor is she a painter. He's a Hollywood screenwriter, and she has a variety of jobs.
The afterlife imagery is based on natural scenery rather than paintings. The Heavenly environment does not automatically mold itself to people's thoughts, as in the film; some practice and expertise is required to build things. The novel's depiction of Hell is considerably more violent than in the film. Chris finds it difficult to move, breathe, or see, and he suffers physical torture at the hands of some inhabitants. He does not encounter ships, thunderstorms, fire, or the sea of human faces that he will walk upon in the film. Instead, he and Albert climb craggy cliffs and encounter such sights as a swarm of insects that attack people.
Ann is consigned to Hell for just 24 years, not eternity. At the end, which resembles an alternate version of the film but not the standard version, she escapes from Hell by being reincarnated, because she is not ready for Heaven.
The soundtrack for What Dreams May Come was composed and conducted by Michael Kamen and produced by James Seymour Brett. Ennio Morricone completed and recorded a full score for the film. After editorial changes were made, his score was rejected, and Kamen was hired for the film score. Dawn Soler, the musical supervisor for the film, said in an interview that Axl Rose intended to have the then-unreleased Guns N' Roses song "This I Love" in the film, but Ward did not use the song. It was later added to the band's album Chinese Democracy.
The main theme song ("Chris and Annie's Theme") for this movie was based on The New York Rock Ensemble's song "Beside You," from their 1971 album "Roll Over."
Despite poor box office receipts, the film won the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects at the 71st Academy Awards in 1999, awarded to Kevin Mack, Joel Hynek, Nickolas Brooks, and Stuart Robertson. It was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Art Direction. It won the Art Directors Guild Award for Excellence in Production Design.
The film received mixed reviews from critics. It holds a 55% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 67 reviews. The critical consensus reads "An insubstantial plot overshadows the beautiful, surreal scenery." 
|“||I have my disappointments with it. But I would not want them to discourage you from seeing it, because this is a film that even in its imperfect form shows how movies can imagine the unknown, can lead our imaginations into wonderful places. And it contains heartbreakingly effective performances by Robin Williams and Annabella Sciorra."||”|
James Berardinelli of ReelViews gave What Dreams May Come three stars out of four, saying:
|“||Many movies have offered representations of heaven and hell, but few with as much conviction and creativity as What Dreams May Come. The plot, which focuses on the sacrifices one man will make for true love, is neither complicated nor original, but, bolstered by the director's incredible visual sense, it becomes an affecting piece of drama.||”|
Stephen Hunter of the Washington Post disliked the film, which he felt was "overproduced and underpopulated, with either characters or ideas" and "lacks ... drama." Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a C+ rating, saying that
|“||if the film's morose sentimentality sidesteps ludicrousness, it's also not very dramatic. We feel as if we're stuck inside a two-hour dream sequence. There's a central contradiction in a fairy tale like this one: the film may preach to the audience about matters of the spirit, but its bejeweled special-effects vision of the afterlife can't help but come off as aggressively literal-minded."||”|
When asked his thoughts on the film adaptation of his story, Richard Matheson said, "I will not comment on What Dreams May Come except to say that a major producer in Hollywood said to me, 'They should have shot your book.' Amen."
- No Sweat Shakespeare, To Be Or Not To Be: Hamlet Soliloquy. Line 11.
- Cinema Blend, What Dreams May Come Movie Review
- Film In America, What Dreams May Come.
- Williams, Carol J. (May 10, 2006). "Carrier Will Sink to Serve". Los Angeles Times (Tribune Company). Retrieved August 22, 2010.
- Moriarty's Complete review for WHAT DREAMS MAY COME, Aint it cool.com, August 24, 1998
- Fires - June 1st 2008, studiotour.com, Universal Studios
- Julien R. Fielding, Discovering World Religions At 24 Frames Per Second, published in Journal of Media and Religion Volume 8, Issue 4, Oct. 2009.
- WHAT DREAMS MAY COME - "They rejected it because it was too emotional?", Radio Soundtrack f-m
- What Dreams May Come (1998), Rotten Tomatoes
- Ebert, Roger. What Dreams May Come review, Chicago Sun-Times, October 2, 1998.
- Berardinelli, James. What Dreams May Come review, ReelViews.net, 1998.
- Hunter, Stephen. What Dreams May Come review Washington Post, October 2, 1998.
- Gleiberman, Owen. What Dreams May Come review Entertainment Weekly, October 9, 1998
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: What Dreams May Come (film)|
- What Dreams May Come at the Internet Movie Database
- What Dreams May Come at allmovie
- What Dreams May Come at Rotten Tomatoes
- What Dreams May Come at Vincent Ward Films