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What Dreams May Come
Following several abortive attempts to secure a cheap copy, Ebay finally provided this colourful and thought-provoking movie at a reasonable price.
After life there is more, says the tag line, but it seems that less is more. Less than accurate, far less than satisfactory, way less than happiness, hopelessly less than any of the wonderful promises of scripture...
Robin Williams acts at a pitch which seems to score somewhere between the quiet sensitivity of Awakenings and the understated intensity of Insomnia and One Hour Photo, avoiding any of the eccentricities of his showcase Good Morning Vietnam, the uneven Mrs Doubtfire, or the universally and deservedly disliked Patch Adams.
Here Williams plays Christy, a quiet, happy doctor who meets, woos and marries fine artist Annie, played by the delicious Annabella Sciorra (who excelled as the asthmatic wife in The Hand that Rocks the Cradle) before the titles have finished.
Christy & Annie are described as ‘soulmates’; a concept which apparently includes the gift of being able to rewrite theology, selecting appealing and exciting bits from several religions and bolting them together to make an adventure located in a paradise with no God (except as a name taken in vain), no Jesus Christ (ditto, somewhat joltingly) and no worship (except of the soulmate idea itself).
Anyway, the film starts on a seriously downhill journey from the ‘happy ever after’ start, as the couple’s two children, played with charm and honesty by, in particular, Jessica Brooks Grant, (and latterly, Keiko O'Brien, the wife of the Chief Engineer on the USS Enterprise: Star Trek Next Generation) are killed in a road accident. This has a devastating effect on Annie, who descends into clinical depression. Christy offers a divorce, because he recognises that he can only remind her of her loss, since he will not join her in the mental descent she has made. She refuses and they try to start again. But then Christy is killed in another road accident (uncharacteristically uninventive moment, methinks) and we join him in a field of flowers which are made of oil paint.
Heaven, we are informed by Cuba Gooding Jnr, playing a chatty ‘angel’, is different for each of us. We get there by being reasonable, apparently, and by showing love. There is no understanding of the Biblical teaching that heaven is more real that earth; this world is a shadow of the reality in the world to come. But the film-makers have worked hard to show us a fabulously colourful, joyful, free, grand, exciting, inventive and spontaneous heaven, all of which get the thumbs up.
So the family dog is here, as are both the children, and the good doctor’s mentor. Cartesian philosophy (existence is defined by self-awareness) is mingled with Eastern mysticism and wish-fulfillment, plus a few other selected images and ideas from a pick-and-mix approach to truth, New Age style. No hint of any patriarchs enjoying a pre-wedding breakfast for the Lion and the Lamb cucumber sandwich and glass of Cab Sav; no saints receiving their reward; precious few mansions; no sea of glass; no cubic city; no throne; no cherubim, let alone ummim or thummim.
And then it all gets a bit dark when Annie commits suicide (cheerful stuff, eh?) and is consigned to hell. But hell is not what you thought – all fire and brimstone and gnashing of teeth, regretting having rejected Christ’s offer of salvation. Oh, no. It’s an upside down church with a broken version of your dream house. Oh, and you can have visitors, too. Christy forces his way into Annie’s hell and reminds her that they are soulmates, and this is sufficient to redeem her, and so they agree to reincarnate themselves and have another turn.
The movie ends with two little children meeting and sharing a sandwich, and with every one rushing for the door, or scrambling for the eject button on the remote. It’s as awful as it sounds, folks.
But one is left with a distinct feeling that this silly, muddled, sentimental and beautiful movie will surely make some people wonder what it’s really like. It cannot possibly be as it is portrayed; so what is the truth about heaven, hell, souls, angels, death, life, purpose, love, family… and shouldn’t God figure in this somewhere?
Vastly awful, blasphemous & destructive
Will you join me in a song? All together now:
Heaven is a wonderful place
Filled with glory and grace
I want to see my Saviour’s face
Oh. Never mind. Let’s try the WDMC version:
Heaven is a colourful place
Filled with paint and wish-fulfilment
and people in weird disguises
Rejection of Christ and having a blasphemous mouth
don’t matter in the slightest
Heaven is a pointless idea if there’s no reward,
no ultimate satisfaction, no resting.
With a folldi-roll, down derry, cravens and a merry twistle;
and a harem scarem diddledum darum,
Whipsee diddledee dandy dee – Crambone.’
Honestly, Brian, it’s about as meaningful.
Extremely slight redemptive pondering
I can’t help thinking that while this story is so unsound as to be heresy, it will make some viewers investigate the reality. And that has to be a good thing. Or even a Good Thing.