Monday, March 17, 2014

For In That Sleep Of Death...

What Dreams May Come pulls a lot of inspiration from Dante's Inferno. Hell itself is very similar to how Dante described it. Everything is dark and fiery and highly unpleasant. It's also a similar story, how someone goes into hell with every intention and ability to get back out, who has a soulmate to find and has a guide to lead him and explain how everything works. The movie has some very clever allusions to Dante, like the gate of hell. The gate has a big boat marooned outside, and a river they have to cross to reach hell itself. The big boat is a gigantic destroyed battleship, with everything on fire and lots of people strewn about around it. They're not dead, but it seems that they can't get up. There is also a blank banner, like how it is in the vestibule of Dante's hell. Back to the ship. The giant boat is called "Cerberus", and like in Inferno, it guards the gates. Another clever way to bring in some of Dante's ideas is the way that there is a specific place for everyone in hell, but the punishments are varied and quite personalized. When Chris finds his wife, she is stuck face-up in the dirt, in a sea of faces. This is like the punishment in Canto XIX, where Simoniacs are buried head first in the ground with only their feet sticking out. In the movie, the punishment is reversed, but it was very similar to Inferno.

Something done very well in What Dreams May Come but not as well done in Inferno is symbolism. Now, hold on. In Inferno there is a TON of symbolism. It was just a bit heavy-handed. Like, the Pope is mentioned twelve kajillion times in hell because Dante didn't like him. And there are all these famous people in hell, also because Dante had issues with them. And he talks to all of them to prove how much better he is, and that he can get out of hell. Cos he's just too cool.  In What Dreams May Come, everything was more subtle and subdued. It was all about the colors, that quick shot, the feelings from the scenes. For example, everything with death had purple. When the children were killed, their dad waved goodbye surrounded by purple flowers. Before Chris died, he had a purple painting with him. In heaven and in hell, all of the flashbacks were accompanied by a flash of white and purplish light. And when Annie commits suicide, she is wearing purple pajamas. Everything in hell is dark, red and black and brown. Everything in heaven is bright and happy, golds and blues and reds. Especially when Chris is in the painting. Everything is gorgeous there. Every single shot of the movie has symbols and meaning to it, but it was done tastefully, unlike Inferno. But that is just personal opinion.