Everyone has those movies that, no matter what time they come on TV or what you’re doing when they come on, you’ll stop everything to watch them. One of mine, What Dreams May Come, was on cable today.
I’m drawn to this movie for three reasons. First, it is visually stunning. Annie’s paintings come to life in Chris’ heaven first in actual paint, then in one of the richest, most detailed sets I’ve ever seen in any film. The trip through hell begins literally with a sea of pale, naked, tortured souls, capsizing ships that attempt to cross it, followed by an endless desolate field of persons buried up to their necks. It ends, finally, in what appears to be Chris and Annie’s house in life, charred, broken, and flooded. The emotions are palpable in each and every scene. Second, the acting is compelling. Robin Williams and Annabella Sciorra’s performances are gut wrenching and emotionally raw. In my mind, this is easily Sciorra’s best performance. As a woman tortured with guilt over the deaths of her children, then desperately trying to hold on to a reason to live after losing her husband, she manages to show the agonizing, expressionless existence of someone in a serious and dangerous Depression without becoming pathetic and stereotypical. Finally, the way Chris brought Annie out of hell resonates with me. After the death of their children, and again when he finds her in hell, Chris tries desperately to pull Annie out of her seemingly bottomless well of pain. Finally, sitting at her feet in the ruins of the chaos she’s created, Chris decides that if he can’t get her to heaven, he’d join her for eternity in hell, even if it means surrendering his own mind to her pain. When he opens his eyes and he is back in his heaven, Annie at his side, he asks her how it happened, particularly since he tried so hard during their lives and in her hell to pull her out. She states, very simply, that she was unable to break free until he stopped trying to free her and tried joining her.