Thursday, 25 November 2010

"What You Believe Becomes Your World"

"Somewhere in Time", by Jeannot Szwarc, 1980, DVD Anchor Bay, 2009

"Somewhere in Time" (1980), starring Jane Seymour, Christopher Plummer and Christopher Reeve, adapted from Richard Matheson's novel "Bid Time Return" (1975) is a movie which alone could easily become the material for another story. "Somewhere in Time", is the story of love transcending time and space. American playwright Richard Collier (Christopher Reeve) is given an antique gold watch by an elderly woman (Susan French), at the opening of a play at Milford College in 1972. She then told Collier "Come back to me", and simply vanished from his life. Eight years later, Collier who has become a successful playwright, is now fighting against the writer's block and on a more private note, is trying to make sense of his love life. He resolves to take a short trip alone, and ended up booking a room at the Grand Hotel, an old-fashioned resort located on Mackinac Island in Michigan. 

While waiting for the hotel restaurant to open, he wanders into the Hall of History, where he discovers the portrait of a beautiful woman - the successful actress Elise McKenna (Jane Seymour) - which literally bewitched him. He then decided to prolong his stay at the hotel, after having discovered that the old woman who gave him the gold antique watch eight years ago, and asked him to come back to her, was in fact Elise McKenna. From this moment on, Richard decided to do whatever it takes to return to the past in 1912, to find the woman with whom he has deeply fallen in love. Despite the fact that "Somewhere in Time" is somewhat flawed from the start, because of an annoying time loop - the gold watch - the story works wonderfully. It does even better, if you are like me a hopeless romantic. Who would not want to find true love, even if it means given up everything you have achieved in this present life?

What "Somewhere in Time" does for its audience, is to remind us that they are in fact values and feelings that transcend time and space. With its insistence on characterizations, rather than on special effects - no time machine for Richard Collier - or easy movie recipes, "Somewhere in Time", treats us into a gentle, intelligent and deliciously old-fashioned story, not to mention a refreshing view of a time where vulgarity and impatience would not have been regarded as social virtues. And this is largely due to Richard Matheson's way of relating to his own material. As there is in fact, a plethora of material around both Matheson's novel and this movie. 

For Matheson fans, I highly recommend to buy his novel "Bid Time Return", first published  in 1975. In 1999, there has been a special reprint edition of the movie edition of Matheson's novel: a hardcover, leather-bound slip cased one, with movie stills and all personally signed by the author. In addition to this special reprint, there is the movie Making Of, which is in fact a clever and inspired compromise between movie and novel material. Furthermore, it is possible to prolong the pleasure brought by this movie, by visiting Bill Shepard's website "INSITE" (International Network of Somewhere in Time Enthusiasts), at, where you can order not only the Making Of of SIT, but also all kinds of movie memorabilia. It is also possible to subscribe to the INSITE quarterly magazine, which gives great value to one's money. Now, movie fans with zone-free DVD player can order the Zone 1 Collector's edition of SIT movie, which contains a lot of special features.

Back to SIT documentary, Director's commentary (Jeannot Szwarc, from Jaw 2), the SIT Fans Club, production photographs, theatrical trailer, production notes and finally cast and filmmakers’ material. And do not fear to loose the magic by either reading Matheson’s novel, or the Making Of, for they are both beautiful as well as inspired creations in their own right. In fact, inspiration is the keyword in the SIT story. Dare I say that it is the greatest merit of the filmmakers (Matheson and Szwarc for the screenplay, Stephan Deutsch for the production, Isidore Mankofsky for the photography, John Barry for the score and finally the Oscar winning costume designer, Jean-Pierre Dorleac) to have been able to preserve the beauty and uniqueness of this time travel romance? 

For those with a romantic mindset, or fascinated by time travel stories, it is impossible not to cherish Matheson's idea that love and will are good enough to travel into time, a belief that is summarized in my review title "What you believe becomes your world", (page 93 in the novel). Last but not least, a world of eternal gratefulness to John Barry who created this haunting film score. It was his gift to his good friend Jane Seymour, and was written shortly after both Barry's parents passed away. Also included in the film score, is Rachmaninoff's wonderful "Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini". If indeed what you believe becomes your world, and if eternal love is part of it, then perhaps, somewhere in time you will get your chance too.


1 comment:

  1. Matheson also offered another take on the idea that "what you believe becomes your world" in WHAT DREAMS MAY COME, which was filmed with Robin Williams in 1998. These two novels of love and fantasy brought him an entirely new audience, in addition to those familiar with his work as one of the primary contributors to THE TWILIGHT ZONE and the screenwriter of several Edgar Allan Poe films in the 1960s. You can read more about SOMEWHERE IN TIME in my book RICHARD MATHESON ON SCREEN (