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 taken from a line in Hamlet's To be, or not to be soliloquy. It is based on Inferno, the first part of Dante Alighieri's 14th-century epic poem Divine Comedy.
While vacationing in Switzerland, physician Chris Nielsen (Robin Williams) meets artist Annie Collins (Annabella Sciorra). They are instantly 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 comes to an end when the children die in a car crash. Life becomes very difficult: Annie suffers a mental breakdown, and the strains on their marriage threaten to lead to divorce, but they manage to struggle through their losses.
On the anniversary of the day they decided not to divorce, Chris is killed in a car accident. Unaware that he is dead and confused when nobody can interact with him, Chris lingers on Earth. He watches Annie's attempts to cope with the loss and he attempts to communicate with her, despite advice from a spirit-like presence that it will only cause her pain. When his attempts only leave her more distraught, he decides to move on.
Chris awakens in Heaven, and finds that his immediate surroundings are controlled by his imagination. He meets a man (Cuba Gooding Jr.) whom Chris seems to recognize as Albert, his friend and mentor from his medical residency, and the spirit-like presence from his time as a "ghost" on Earth. Albert will be his guide in this new life. Albert teaches Chris about his new existence in Heaven, and how to shape his little corner of it 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, which was inspired by Annie's belief that she can communicate with Chris in the afterlife. Albert explains to Chris that this is a sign that the couple are truly soul mates. However, Annie is overcome with despair and decides that Chris cannot, in fact, "see" the painting and destroys the piece. Chris sees his version of the tree disintegrate before his eyes which coincides with the painting being destroyed in the real world.
Chris laments he will not see his wife and encounters an Asian woman with the name tag "Leona", whom he comes to recognize as his daughter Marie, living in an area shaped like a diorama she loved in life. The two share a tearful reunion.
Meanwhile on Earth, Annie is unable to cope with the loss of her husband. She then decides to commit suicide. Chris, who is initially relieved that her suffering is over, quickly becomes angry when he learns that those who commit suicide are sent to Hell; this is not the result of any judgment made against them, but that it is their nature 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" (who takes the form of Sigmund Freud) to help find Annie's soul.
On the journey to Hell, Chris finds himself recalling his son, Ian. Remembering how he'd called him the one man he'd want at his side to brave Hell, Chris realizes 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 ways, 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 containing the faces of the damned, they come to a dark and twisted replica 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 become permanently trapped in Hell. All that Chris can reasonably expect is a chance to say a final farewell to Annie.
Chris enters the house to find Annie suffering from amnesia, unable even to remember her suicide and tortured by her decrepit surroundings. Unable to stir her memories, he "gives up", but not the way the Tracker hoped he would; he chooses to join Annie forever in Hell. As he announces his intent to stay to Annie, his words parallel something he had said to her when he left her in an institution following their children's deaths, and she regains her memories even as Chris is succumbing to her nightmare. Annie, wanting nothing more at that moment than to save Chris, ascends to Heaven, bringing Chris with her.
Chris and Annie are reunited with their children in Heaven, whose original appearances are restored. Chris proposes reincarnation, so that he and Annie can experience life together all over again. The film ends with Chris and Annie meeting again as young children in a situation roughly parallel to their first meeting.
- Robin Williams as Chris (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 the few films to have been shot in this manner. The Fuji Velvia film is known among landscape photographers for its vivid color reproduction. Filming locations include various places in Marin County, Alameda County, and Glacier National Park. Part of the "Hell" sequence was filmed on the decrepit and rusted 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 — which is 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 his new life as a widower before the two are once again reunited in Heaven. The film then goes to Sri Lanka where a woman is giving birth to a little girl, presumed to be Annie. In Philadelphia, a little boy is born, presumably Chris. This ending was left roughly edited and unfinished.
Differences from the novel 
||This article may contain original research. (September 2007)|
The novel has significant differences from the film, in both its plot and its vision of the afterlife. Its approach to the love story is considerably less sentimental, its tone more scientific than fantastic.
There are far more references to Theosophical, New Age and paranormal beliefs. Indeed, the author Richard Matheson claims in an introductory note that only the characters are fictional, and that almost everything else is based on research (the book contains an extensive bibliography). Story elements that do not show up in the film include astral projection, telepathy, a séance, and the term "Summerland" (the name for a simplified Heaven in Theosophy, and for Heaven in general in earth-based religions such as Wicca).
The details of Chris's life on Earth also differ strongly in the novel. Only Chris and his wife (called Ann) die. Their children, who are grownups rather than youngsters, remain alive, as minor characters. Albert and Leona are exactly the people they appear to be, and the character played by Max Von Sydow does not appear in the book at all. 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, country 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 it does 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 even see, and he suffers physical torture at the hands of some of the inhabitants. He does not encounter ships, thunderstorms, fire, or the sea of human faces that he must walk upon in the film. Instead, he and Albert climb across craggy cliffs and encounter such sights as a swarm of insects that attack people's bodies.
Ann is consigned to Hell for only 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 to do the film score. Dawn Soler, the musical supervisor for the film, has 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 not being a box office success, 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.
However, 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
- Richard Matheson interview at The I Am Legend Archive
|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 AllRovi
- What Dreams May Come at Rotten Tomatoes
- What Dreams May Come at Vincent Ward Films