whole family lost to car crashes. It's enough to make a person buy
films rely heavily on the visual aesthetic as opposed to narrative
strength. Critics often like to lambaste this, but there's nothing
inherently wrong with the approach. Film is, after all, a visual
medium, is it not? Why can't the notion of a moving painting be
utilized as a focal point in a movie? What Dreams May Come shows
you why it can.
a narrative, the film is lacking, only because it goes a little
over the top emotionally. I don't mean to say that it's a bad
story. In fact, I rather liked the story here. But this film isn't
about the story - it's about the beautiful vistas against which
that story plays out. It is, more than any other movie, a painting
on film. That said, the story plays out like this. Chris Nielsen
(played by Robin Williams) loses his two children in an auto accident.
This tragedy is compounded when he too dies in an accident, leaving
his beloved wife Annie behind to mourn them all. But, newly arrived
in the afterlife, Nielsen refuses to give up on staying with Annie,
and so he goes on a journey through Heaven (and Hell) to find
Williams lets his performance get too sappy at times, and seems
to go too far. But when people say this film is a beautiful piece
of cinema, they are absolutely correct. Scenery of epic proportions,
with unparalleled visual magnitude, abounds here. It really is
very stunning and, on this level, the film is the visual masterpiece
some have referred to it as. An interesting bit of trivia is that
this film is one of the few shot on Fuji Velvia film stock. This
particular film stock is actually used more frequently for landscape
still-photography, due to its very high color saturation. Usually,
the stock is only used in filmmaking when special effects are
involved, and it's obvious why it was used here.
DVD version of What Dreams May Come, for all of these reasons,
has a tall task in bringing this visual epic home. But I can safely
say that this DVD does a bang-up job. The black levels are perfect
and the colors come through richly and with tremendous vibrancy...
but not too much. Film grain isn't a problem either, and neither
is digital artifacting. The anamorphic transfer is beautiful with
great detail. Occasionally, some of the smaller background details
are a bit distorted, but this is hardly worth mentioning. This
is really a stunning picture.
audio on the disc is also solid. While the sound effects aren't
a pillar on which this film is built, they sound good enough when
they're in play. Where the audio really comes through is in the
heavenly (pardon the reference) score by composer Michael Kamen.
The music perfectly compliments the stunning vistas and adds a
touching accentuation to the emotional chord of the film. Note
that the DVD automatically defaults to Dolby 2.0 Surround as opposed
to the 5.1 channel mix, unless you specifically select otherwise.
what extras may come, here? This is a special edition and, true
to form, it boasts a solid array of supplements. The director's
commentary track is good, and I must say something about his accent
here. Vincent Ward has this accent that just sounds awesome and
is perfect when juxtaposed next to this film. That sounds strange,
I know, but it's true. This commentary good, although it does
sound scripted at times. Ward basically focuses on motivations
and hardly ever mentions any technical or filming insights. Along
with the commentary, you also get an alternate ending (it's safe
to say that Ward made the right call in not using it). Some behind-the-scenes
footage is included, as are extensive featurette-style examinations
of the visual effects in the film (one note: take a look around
and see if you can catch Peter Pan and company flying around during
some of the Heaven sequences). And you get the usual trailers,
cast & crew bios and production notes. There's also DVD-ROM
content, but it isn't really worth mentioning, so I won't.
does deserved to be mentioned, however, is the menu system. It's
billed as a "dual interactive menu screen", which basically
means that you can pick between a heavenly and a hellish motif.
That's really the only distinctly defining quality about them.
But the menus do look brilliant. Whoever designed them deserves
whatever kind of award they give out for this stuff.
Dreams May Come is a film that sort of missed the boat on story.
But it still remains a beautifully dramatic piece, with the right
amount of tragedy, serious issues and the obligatory happy ending.
The visuals take up the mantle dropped by the script, and they
do so with such style and epic magnificence that the film becomes
memorable and worthwhile on this point alone. The DVD is also
a great value, with all of the extras and slick design you'd expect.
Give it a rent at the very least.