What Dreams May Come






 

What Dreams May Come is a film based on Richard Matheson’s original novel of the same title (1978). The title ‘What Dreams May Come’ is a quote taken from Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The film starts with a scene where a man and a woman, Chris and Annie, accidentally meet at a lake in Switzerland. They feel chemistry as if they have known each other for long, and they soon marry. They finally become parents of two kids (a son named Ian and a daughter named Marie) and lead busy lives as a pediatrician and an artist, respectively. One day, on their way back home from school, the two kids pass away from a car accident. Annie starts to suffer from severe guilt as she hadn’t picked up the kids that day because of her work, even though Marie asked her so. Chris finally decides to divorce Annie who cannot overcome the pain of having lost her children. However, this opportunity turns into their resolution to overcome the tribulation together. Four years later, just when Annie is recovering from the despair of having lost both children at once, Chris dies from a car accident on his way to help Annie’s work. Annie sinks into an unbearable pit of pain, which she is never able to come out of because she believes her husband’s death is also her fault. So, she eventually takes her own life.

What Dreams May Come - Wisdom's Webzine

 

The film continues on with depicting the afterlife upon Chris’s death. A soul incarnating as Albert, a mentor Chris had admired during his lifetime, appears as a guide to the afterlife. Albert helps Chris, who doesn’t admit his death even after seeing his funeral, to go to heaven. Once in heaven, Chris spends peaceful time with his daughter, whose appearance is different from the one in life. Meanwhile, Chris cannot forget about his wife and hears that Annie had committed suicide and thus is eternally trapped in hell. Chris decides to go to hell in order to save his wife. Albert introduces Chris to a tracker who takes him to hell. At the gates of hell, Chris realizes Albert who he believed to be his mentor is actually his son Ian. He also gets to know the tracker who is helping him is a real mentor in a different persona. Chris is warned that he might get trapped in hell forever if he stays with Annie for too long. He decides to say good bye to her for good, and enters a deserted house where Annie is trapped inside. He finds his wife in pain, suffering from memory loss and delusions. Despite his sincere efforts, he fails to bring back her memory. Chris felt so sad after having to leave behind his tormented wife in life. So this time, he gives up his life in heaven and decides to stay next to his suffering wife in hell. His sacrificing love for Annie brings back Annie’s memory, and in reward, Chris returns to heaven with Annie. The family reunites there. Chris proposes to Annie that they be born again to live a new life together as human beings. The film ends with the two appearing as small kids meeting again at some lakeside, just like their first meeting.

What Dreams May Come - Wisdom's Webzine

 

The film’s depiction of the afterlife is mostly based on human imagination. This means it is a part of art expressing the human mind world in creative images. Seen from that aspect, the visual effects of heaven and hell depicted in the film are admirable. According to the movie, upon death, one goes to heaven, which looks similar to the world one has dreamed of during his life and everything comes true by one’s own imagination.  One also has the right to be born again as a human by one’s choice. Heaven is portrayed in the film is a fantasy of one’s mind world that an individual has dreamed of while living, and hell is the expression of the worst mind state one has experienced while living. Therefore, it indirectly shows that both heaven and hell are the world in one’s mind. The afterworlds of each of Chris’s family are depicted in different appearances. It implies that each of them has lived in their own mind world rather than with one mind, although they were one family. Under the name of ‘love’, Chris was attached to his wife, expected his son to meet his standards, and treated his daughter with hypocrisy pretending to love her. His character of hiding despair and pain even at the death of his children and pretending to be strong for the ego really shows one side of a human that is selfish and hypocritical. However, upon death, he gets to realize his faults and discovers the real persona of his children that has been covered up with his conceptions. It is profoundly touching to see them becoming one.

What Dreams May Come - Wisdom's Webzine

 

Marie is incarnated as an Asian female flight attendant whom her dad, Chris, favorably looked at on a trip. Marie wanted to become such a lady because of her dad and in heaven her wish comes true in a sense. It shows her mind world in which she wanted to receive genuine love and attention from her dad. Ian is incarnated as a mentor his dad has admired in his life. The reason for this is that Ian had wished his dad would unconditionally listen to him just like his dad listened to his mentor. It is an expression of resentment against his dad who only wanted him to meet his dad’s standards and didn’t respect his opinions. Lastly, the mentor Albert is originally black but the mentor Chris meets in heaven is incarnated as a Caucasian. As Albert reveals his existence, he asks his mentee Chris if he knows why they all wished to be appear differently. Following that, Albert answers that it is because human conceptions obstruct the real identity of each other. His saying might be interpreted in this way: we cannot see the world and people as they are, and we see each other and make judgments through our conceptions, i.e. our mind world. Through the two main characters, the film conveys the message that one’s mind that has connected each other exists forever, going beyond places, materials and individuals’ mind worlds. It, therefore, emphasizes what we need is to live together with that mind no matter what situations we are facing, beyond time and space.

What Dreams May Come - Wisdom's Webzine

 

A great question to ask after watching the film is, “If heaven exists, wouldn’t it be the same place where everyone exists together?” Heaven depicted in the film is the mind world that individuals have longed for, which is different from one another. However, the mind that exists transcending all such things is the mind of the origin that connects everyone to one. If everyone exists together as one by throwing away the human conceptions and mind worlds that hindered this one mind, that place would be heaven to anyone no matter where they are. If people lock onto each other with attachments, then they themselves are trapped inside, isn’t that hell? If people lived laying down the attachments and just living as one mind without expectations of each other, it would be heaven. Like the last lines from the film, I wish the day will come when everyone coexists forever without possession by throwing away the ego and attachment to the human life, which is as short as a heartbeat, compared to the everlasting life of heaven.

 © 2013 Universal Studios