Shakespeare’s Hamlet says:

To die, to sleep—
To sleep—perchance to dream. Ay, there's the rub!
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause


“What Dreams May Come” is based on the 1978 Novel by Richard Matheson.  He is a prolific writer, including 14 Twilight Zone episodes, plus   Have Gun Will Travel, Alfred Hitchcock, Star Trek.  His  Novel “I Am Legend” was  made into 2 movies: Omega Man and “I Am legend”.


The novel was his genuine attempt to understand life and death.  He interviewed many people who had afterlife experiences.  Then he based the characters in large part on his relationship with his wife.  Indeed, the author Richard Matheson claims in an introductory note that only the characters are fictional, and that almost everything else is based on research (the book contains an extensive bibliography).


The screenplay was then written by Ron Bass. He won the academy award for Rain Man and also wrote movies such as: Mozart and the Whale, Amelia, How Stella Got Her Groove Back, Joy Luck Club , Waiting to Exhale, Dangerous Minds, Snow Falling on Cedars.


Director Vincent Ward, quoting Ron Bass: “I see this as a film about reconciliation, about what we didn’t do right the first time, as if  we had a second chance


1999 Oscar: Best Effects, Visual Effects


Ward says

 (“I wanted it so it would remind you of the original myth[of Orpheus”.)


Orpheus was a legendary musician, poet, and prophet in ancient Greek religion and myth. [He is described as somewhat historical, somewhat mythological.]

--The major stories about him are centered on his ability to charm all living things and even stones with his music; his attempt to retrieve his wife from the underworld; and his death at the hands of those who could not hear his divine music.

--The most famous story in which Orpheus figures is that of his wife Eurydice. When she died, Orpheus, played such sad and mournful songs that all the nymphs and gods wept. On their advice, Orpheus traveled to the underworld and by his music softened the hearts of Hades and Persephone (he was the only person ever to do so), who agreed to allow Eurydice to return with him to earth on one condition: he should walk in front of her and not look back until they both had reached the upper world.

--He set off with Eurydice following, and, in his anxiety, as soon as he reached the upper world, he turned to look at her, forgetting that both needed to be in the upper world, and she vanished for the second time, but now forever.


Courage – Emotional strengths that involve the exercise of will to accomplish goals in the face of opposition, external or internal [Courage :Understanding the risk, but thoughtfully making a  choice anyway]

Bravery [valor]: Not shrinking from threat, challenge, difficulty, or pain; speaking up for what is right even if there is opposition; acting on convictions even if unpopular; includes physical bravery but is not limited to it

Perseverance [persistence, industriousness]: Finishing what one starts; persisting in a course of action in spite of obstacles;

Honesty [authenticity, integrity]: Speaking the truth but more broadly presenting oneself in a genuine way and acting in a sincere way;taking responsibility for one's feelings and actions

Zest [vitality, enthusiasm, vigor, energy]: Approaching life with excitement and energy; not doing things halfway or halfheartedly; living life as an adventure; feeling alive and activated


Wisdom and Knowledge Cognitive strengths that entail the acquisition and use of knowledge

Creativity [originality, ingenuity]: Thinking of novel and productive ways to conceptualize and do things;

Curiosity [interest, novelty-seeking, openness to experience]: Taking an interest in ongoing experience for its own sake; finding subjects and topics fascinating; exploring and discovering

Judgment & Open-Mindedness [critical thinking]: Thinking things through and examining them from all sides; not jumping to conclusions; being able to change one's mind in light of evidence; weighing all evidence fairly

Perspective [wisdom]: Being able to provide wise counsel to others; having ways of looking at the world that make sense to oneself and to other people

[Notice how Chris embodies this virtue.  How does it affect how we respond to him?  What does he do that is intended to cause us to like him?]

Transcendence - Strengths that forge connections to the larger universe and provide meaning

Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence [awe, wonder, elevation]: Noticing and appreciating beauty, excellence, and/or skilled performance in various domains of life


Ron Bass: “What the film is saying is that we’re not defined by our mortality. The most important fact about isn’t that were are temporary, it is what we are capable of achieving, and feeling and sacrificing and experiencing during this temporary life.”


Cost $80-85,000,000Domestic Gross $55,000,000

International, $16,000,000 $22,000,000 rentals


When Chris goes to the city in Heaven where people are flying around, watch for characters from "Peter Pan" (Wendy, Michael, John) and "Mary Poppins" (Mary Poppins) among the people flying.


Hell: the belief in disconnection.

“Suicide:By denying what ever life force principles there are, you are locking out everybody who you could possibly be with in the future. You are condemned to being, simply, alone with …your own soul.”


Blue Jacaranda tree


What Dreams May Come was shot largely on Fuji Velvia film and one of the few films to be done so. The Fuji Velvia film is known among landscape photographers for its vivid color reproduction.[2] Filming locations include various places in Marin County, Alameda County, and Glacier National Park.[3]


Chris Nielsen: Thats when I realized I’m part of the problem. Not   because I remind you. But because I couldn’t join you. So I left   you alone. Dont give up, okay?


The special edition DVD shows an alternate ending — which is the ending from the novel — in which the reincarnation is not a choice, but part of the natural order. Chris and Annie will meet again in their new lives, but Annie must atone for killing herself — her new incarnation will die young, and Chris will spend the remainder of his new life as a widower before the two are once again reunited in Heaven

(In the book, the children don’t die)


You create your own paradise.


Painted world filmed in Montana-Glacier National Park.


Annie’s Painting: Magic, like cave dwellers: what she paints becomes real.


Orpheus story: The story in this form belongs to the time of Virgil.  Other ancient writers, however, speak of Orpheus's visit to the underworld in a more negative light; Plato's representation of Orpheus is that of a coward, as instead of choosing to die in order to be with the one he loved, he instead mocked the gods by trying to go to Hades and get her back alive.


(Alternate ending 6:35)


Story elements that do not show up in the film include astral projection, telepathy, a séance, and the term "Summerland" (the name for a simplified Heaven in Theosophy, and for Heaven in general in earth-based religions such as Wicca). 

--The details of Chris's life on Earth also differ strongly in the novel. Only Chris and his wife (called Ann) die. Their children, who are grownups rather than youngsters, remain alive, as minor characters.

--Albert and Leona are exactly the people they appear to be, and the character played by Max Von Sydow does not appear in the book at all. Albert is Chris's cousin and not African American as in the film, while Leona's ethnicity is not divulged.

--Chris and Ann are rural, country types rather than the urbanites portrayed in the film, and he is not a pediatrician, nor is she a painter. He's a Hollywood screenwriter, and she has a variety of jobs.

--The afterlife imagery is based on natural scenery rather than paintings. The Heavenly environment doesn't automatically mold itself to people's thoughts, as it does in the film; some practice and expertise is required to build things.

--The novel's depiction of Hell is considerably more violent than in the film. Chris finds it difficult to move, breathe, or even see, and he suffers physical torture at the hands of some of the inhabitants. He does not encounter ships, thunderstorms, fire, or the sea of human faces that he must walk upon in the film. Instead, he and Albert climb across craggy cliffs and encounter such sights as a swarm of insects that attack people's bodies. Ann is consigned to Hell for only 24 years, not eternity.

--At the end, which resembles an alternate version of the film but not the standard version, she escapes from Hell by being reincarnated, because she is not ready for Heaven.

-- He based Chris's family in the novel on his own.[2] The prologue is narrated by a man telling of his visit by a psychic woman, who gives him a manuscript she claims was dictated to her by his deceased brother Chris. Most of the novel consists of this manuscript.

When asked his thoughts on the film adaptation of his story, Richard Matheson said, "I will not comment on What Dreams May Come except to say that a major producer in Hollywood said to me, 'They should have shot your book.' Amen."


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