Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

What Dreams May Come (1998)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

What Dreams May Come (1998)

In director Vincent Ward's artistic, visually-astonishing after-life drama (a cross between Ingmar Bergman's films and Stairway to Heaven/A Matter of Life and Death (1946, UK)), an adaptation of Richard Matheson's novel:

  • the opening scene of vacationing pediatrician Dr. Chris Nielsen (Robin Williams) meeting and falling in love at first sight with future wife Annie (Annabella Sciorra) in Italy: ("When I was young, I met this beautiful girl by a lake") and their picnic
  • and after their marriage, the tragic scene in which he and artist wife Annie lost their two children Marie (Jessica Brooks Grant) and Ian (Josh Paddock) in an off-screen car crash after he waved goodbye, with his melancholy narration: "It was the last time Annie and I saw them alive"
  • and then four years later, the scene in which Chris, now also deceased and in the afterlife but lingering on Earth - after another multi-car crash in a tunnel - attended his own funeral and attempted to console still-living, grief-stricken Annie
  • his attempts to have despondent Annie acknowledge his continued existence (after whispering in her ear "This is Chris. I still exist," he made her scrawl the words: "ISTILEXST" in her diary, and then tried to contact her at his gravesite: "Don't worry, baby, I'm not leaving you alone. I'm not goin' anywhere") -- and her violent sobbing reactions, forcing Chris to reluctantly leave her and Earth and journey to the afterworld
  • the appearance of a blurry mentor-guide Albert Lewis (Cuba Gooding, Jr.) with advice urging him to depart: "The reality is it's over when you stop wanting to hurt her"
  • the scenes of an Expressionist painting world in Chris' imagined heaven (using surreal Oscar-winning CGI effects) modeled after Annie's paintings, when he was told: "Nice place you got here...You're making all of this. See, we're all pretty insecure at first, so we see ourselves somewhere safe, comforting. We all paint our own surroundings, Chris, but you're the first guy I know to use real paint"
  • the moment when Albert helped him create a "real" afterlife by carving a hole in his dreamhouse's wall
  • "soul-mate" ("sort of like twin souls tuned into each other") Annie's despairing successful suicide foreshadowed by the death of the purple-flowered tree in her 'heavenly' painting and then her afterlife in Hell: ("You never see her. She's a suicide. Suicides go somewhere else...The real Hell is your life gone wrong")
  • Chris' quest to bring her back - to rescue her lost soul from the torment with the help of the dark-cloaked Tracker (Max von Sydow)
  • the view of a vast and dark Hell (Tracker: "In Hell, there's real danger from losing your mind")
  • the Sea of Faces where dozens of pale and tortured souls were buried up to their necks in sand
  • the moment of Chris' discovery of the location of Annie in Hell, his delivery of a sentimental apology to her for all the things he couldn't give her: ("I'll never buy you another meatball sub with extra sauce -- that was a big one! I'll never make you smile..."), and his decision to share his wife's insanity rather than abandon her in Hell (she had earlier told him: "Sometimes, when you lose, you win")
  • the re-uniting of wife Annie with him and their dead children in his heavenly afterlife during the 'feel-good' finale: ("Travel here is like everything else, it's in your mind. All you have to do is close your eyes if you know where you're going. Looks like we did")
  • the final scene of their spiritual reawakening in the bodies of two young children by a lake ("When I was young, I met this beautiful girl by a lake")
Annie's Death and Hell


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