I got to thinking about life, death and everything in between today and with all the redbud trees in bloom right now in the midwest, my thoughts wandered to one of my favorite magical movies about the topic, directed by Vincent Ward in 1998, What Dreams May Come. I love the illustration of the afterlife in this film, it's poignant, wise, and moving. This is also one of the most visually striking movies I've seen, it's inspiring, and I know many people who like to think that is what the afterlife is like. This is a movie about the importance of love, relationships, and explores the ways in which we view each other and our changing places in our lives. It reminds us to treasure each other. This excellent story is based on a novel by the same name by Richard Matheson. I haven't read the book yet, but apparently it differs in many ways including interestingly references to astral projection, seances and Summerland which is the name for heaven in both Theosophy, Wicca and modern Paganism.
Robin Williams is Dr. Chris Neilson and his wife Annie (Annabella Sciorra) have been struggling since their children were killed in a car accident years ago. Chris finds himself helping out victims of another accident, a huge pile up, and is killed when a car smashes into him. He finds himself in a dreamlike land, realizing that he is now dead. He meets his mentor in the afterlife, Albert, the doctor that mentored him in life who is there to guide him in his new existence. Delighted, he discovers that his version of heaven is living within the painted magical world created by his artist wife!
He is suddenly devastated when his world begins to come apart and he discovers that his wife and soul mate has fallen into despair after loosing her family and has committed suicide. He learns that suicides are not punished for the act of taking their life by any other source than themselves, having fallen so deep in sadness, they simply can't move on even after death. She can't join him, and probably won't even know him, if he can even locate her. He then resolves to find her, help her, and bring her back with him, or stay with her, something that no one has managed to do before.
Albert (Cuba Gooding Jr.) helps him find a wise guide known only as "The Tracker" (Max von Syndow) to take him into the darker realm where heavy souls reside to find Annie. Chris learns much on the way about his family, life, relationships, and most important, love.
Chris and Albert meet with The Tracker
This film is completely gorgeous. Scenes are either breathtakingly beautiful or devastatingly terrible, but ever detailed, passionate and visually alive.
It won an Oscar for visual effects and was nominated for art direction, no surprise there. It won many other awards for it's stunning visual effects as well. My favorite is the world created by his daughter; a living vision of a fantastic childhood diorama.
I also adore the tree painted by Annie that is part of Chris' world. I also love that Chris learns that people aren't always who you think they are, and his unending devotion to his wife is inspiring. This is a beautiful magical movie that will move your soul and leave your heart feeling full.