Monday, December 10, 2012

The Lathe of Heaven

To let understanding stop at what cannot be understood is a high attainment. Those who cannot do it will be destroyed on the lathe of heaven.
Chuang Tzu

Based on the 1971 novel by Ursula Le Guin, this first direct to TV production by PBS in 1980 tells the story of George Orr, a young man who goes to forced therapy after trying to kill himself with pills that suppress his dreams. He believes he has dreams that can change reality so that nothing that came before the dream happened, so only he remembers it. It doesn't take the therapist, Dr. William Haber who in short order, realizes that George can in fact "effective dream" and change reality. 

This production is, in a word excellent. That's not to say it's not aged over time. The electronic music is a little tiring, but only a little and the minuscule 250,000$ budget shows... but barely. There was a more recent, and much less successful adaption that didn't come close to capturing the feeling and philosophy of the book. The acting is well done and the story and characters cover a lot of strange ground in a way that keeps mysterious and yet is still easy enough to follow as the plot unfolds. 

Haber, after discovering George is telling the truth about his powers to change things, makes every attempt to use him, not in an evil way, but in a very well intentioned attempt to "fix" the world's problems.. starting with the the nonstop years of rain in the futuristic world of 2002 Portland and then onward to bigger and more ambitious things. Dreams being dreams, nothing quite turns out as cleanly as he would like. As things go for bad to worse, Haber embarks on a plan to cure George and transfer the abilities to someone more worthy and stable... himself, of course. What he doesn't realize is that the entire scenario, including George's ability to effectively dream up reality was the result of something terrible... it was in a sense, George's dying wish, so taking away the power from him just unleashes, once more, the horrible event that put things in motion to start with. 

PBS jumped into original films with a truly original film. It passes on the best ideas in sci-fi minus the current trend of high end effects and leaves many thing open ended enough to interpretation to make this film fit in the same sort of genre of Nicolas Roeg's "The Man Who Fell to Earth" in many respects. Did I mention the voice of the aliens is the same voice as the HAL 9000? 

1 comment:

TS Hart said...

Holy cats, do I love this film. I waited years for the dvd to finally be released. Thank you for posting this.