Tuesday, July 26, 2011

What Dreams May Come

To die, to sleep;
To sleep, perchance to dream – ay, there's the rub:
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil...

Vincent Ward has worked incredible magic in creating the film adaptation of Richard Matheson's novel of the same title. This was one of those films that left me awestruck and speechless. Robin Williams' performance was flawless in this film filled with a dreamlike, romantic atmosphere.

What Dreams May Come tells the story of Chris, a man who has died and reached Heaven but decides to descend into Hell to retrieve his wife who, so deep in despair of Chris' death, committed suicide. The film reflects the Greek images of Hades and Dante's own vivid interpretations of the depths of Hell. The imagery is unquestionably the most striking aspect of this film, but it is not the only wonderful aspect. The romantic, poetic personality of Robin Williams shines in this film. His character is full of hope, life, strength, and love. This personality within the colorfully painted world of Heaven is a truly magical combination that emerges from the screen to fill the soul and mind of the viewer. This is a film that will make you feel. It is a film that will make you think.

Though the general tone of the film deviates from that of the book and contains an ending different from Matheson's original novel, the depth and emotion is, I'm sure, the same. The film raises questions about the nature of Heaven and Hell, the nature of our existence after death, our ability to communicate or present ourselves to those still living, and the possibility of reincarnation. I would argue that it is impossible to watch this film without asking such questions, no matter how lost you find yourself in the breathtakingly brilliant settings. And, despite the complex questions this film might raise, it still manages to remain simple. Ward dives right to the heart of such questions, presenting a possible answer with vivid imagery and a beautiful script. The character of Cuba Gooding Jr. serves as the source of knowledge, answering the questions Chris asks and guiding him along his journey.

In short, this film is one of self-discovery. Even after death, we can still learn who we truly are. We can be only what our souls truly are. The baggage of this world is meaningless in Heaven, as was brilliantly demonstrated by the scene where those sent to Hell are trudging along with their packs and bundles. The beautiful emotional and color contrasts between Heaven and Hell are poignant and Dante-esque. In a few words, this film is inspiring, evocative, and philosophical --but it deserves much more than a few, inadequately descriptive words because beneath the fairly simple plot their rests a much deeper storyline that all too closely reflects our own lives.

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