Last year, we all experienced the loss of Robin Williams.Many people were shocked after his suicide.So many wanted to remember him for his comedic genius and the ways he made so many of us laugh the world over.His death more than anything, made many people question how mental illness is treated and dealt with in this country.The film that I will always remember with fondness however, is 1998’s What Dreams May Come.It’s my favorite film Williams starred in.I also feel it is one the most underrated films of all time.It seems to have a mixed reception among film viewers and critics alike.
On the surface it does feel like another run-of-the-mill Hollywood love story.And I’m not going to deny that love is the central theme to the film.An the isolation that a couple might feel after a passing of a partner.I’m not really into films about soul mates and true love.Never have been.But this particular time it’s done in such a way that it pulls you into the viewing experience.
A big part of the film is the existence one has in the afterlife.This has been a wonder on the minds of many people since the beginning of time.What exactly does lie beyond this world? Heaven is depicted as a lush artists canvas.The color cinematography for these sequences is exceptionally well done.The colors seem to reflect the joy and happiness of the situation.A lot of the experiences our protagonist Christopher played by Williams experiences are all things we would want to experience in an afterlife.Such as being reunited with his children.The seen where he meets up with his deceased daughter is somewhat moving.She doesn’t appear as she did when she lived but as an image she thinks her father would want to see.As he goes on to experience the joy in the after life he’s guided by a angel of some sorts named Albert, played by Cuba Gooding Jr.And I have to completely honest, it’s always nice to see him in a good role, he’s a talented actor and his performance here is no exception.
The moment that I’ve heard so many people describe as the ‘Shark Jumping” is the films climax.Christopher discovers his wife has committed suicide and has been condemned to Hell.Determined to get her back he decides to make a long and perilous journey to retrieve her.So he embarks with Albert and a ferryman played my Max Von Sydow. I have to be completely honest.This is actually my favorite moment in the film. Dialogue a lot of times is what makes or breaks a good picture.Having Williams and Sydow in a boat as they travel past the river Styx is a very powerful segment.The way they delver their lines to one another is nothing short of brilliant, and I absolutely love the way the two of them play off one another.You have two of the greatest character actors who ever lived, and you enjoy every moment they’re on screen together.
At last they reach Hell.Truth be told, I feel this is one of the best depictions of Hell ever put to film.It isn’t the huge towering inferno or the fiery cauldron TV preachers go on and on about.It’s misery and helplessness.Victims of a sunken ship attempting to cry out in agony with their mouths sewn shut, a sea of faces attempting to justify their reasons for why they shouldn’t be there.Its an all around glimpse of what a realm of lost and damned souls would look like.
They do finally reach Christopher’s wife.She exists in a dilapidated version of the home they once shared.She cannot remember anything and lives is a state of complete squalor.The home itself is painted in a bleak shade of grey.A brilliant use of color to contrast the two differences of Heaven and Hell. Similar to the technique used to illustrate the polar opposites of the rich and poor by Federico Fellini in Satyricon.Through flashbacks she remembers who she is, and the two head back to Heaven together.The film ends up with them being reincarnated and the journey of life beginning again.
Say what you will, This is Robin Williams’ finest moment as an actor.Far beyond the slapstick he was more commonly known for, he delivers a performance in this film that will always stand the test of time.It’s his best film, and possibly his most underrated.