DIRECTOR: JOHN HARRISON
MUSIC: LAWRENCE SHRAGGE
COUNTRY: CANADA 1992
CAST: Colin Feore, Wendel Meldrum, Sheila McCarthy, Colin Fox, Rip Torn as Walt Whitman.
SUPER FEATURES: Super story. A great film full of beauty.
AWAKENINGS, with Robin Williams gave us a side to a part of the world that is a bit on the sordid side, and almost always not helpful to the few that are a bit on the needy side. Where AWAKENINGS leaves us feeling sad, and unable to live with the consequences, BEAUTIFUL DREAMERS comes through. And it comes through by showing that there are many ways to deal with the human condition, love being the single most important factor of all....and experimenting with elements which science almost never considers being the other.
All in all, the late nineteenth century is shown as the century where medicine begins to study its more sordid side for curing people by cutting more into them, instead of the option of trying different things and processes which have been used for many ages, by many different cultures. And the film begins with just that. The disabled, physically and otherwise, are the test rats upon whose bodies all forms of experiments are conducted, and at a famous conference a certain R. M. Buck goes to detail his own ideas, only to quit before he gets started because almost all the serious doctors are veritable doctor Frankenstein's, rather than healers. And in the audience is an elder gentleman with a large beard and temperament, who makes fun of a few of the experiments, much to the chagrin of the audience of doctors. And this elder man as it turns out is the free thinker Walt Whitman, in a time when this type of thinking is not considered to be in vogue, although he seems to do very well. Mr. Buck's wife, who is having doubts about her husband's ways, as is the institution that employs him, is also planning on ending a relationship, because she herself does not understand what is going on, and how the free thinking poet is actually interfering with her relationship. But in her solitude and despair it is the few words of the poet which bring her around, to realize that what is happening is more than meet the eye, and in actuality, it is the correct and best thing....and the humane thing to do. Amidst all this, is the poet who refuses to be pegged down to a definition, and comes up with a line or two at a party which alienates the crowd somewhat.....certainly not the classical style of words they wanted to hear.
As time goes by, and with the suggestion of the poet, the doctor begins to lead his motley crew into exercises of fun, and socializing with the affluent which in the end leads to success and the fall of the priest and mayor whose attitudes are more conformist than they are positive and spiritually guided.
Of all the films i have seen this year, few stand out as true victories of the human spirit, and it takes one story of a free thinker, or two, to bring out a sense of beauty in the human spirit which is not always found in many films. The winners are the disabled, that are now considered better people instead of test animals. And unlike the film AWAKENINGS, this film makes other doctors turn their minds to what is happening, and how it is going to be. All in all, it also shows the desire that a few countries have for finding new cures for the most disabling things, rather than the strict medical style that tends to be de-humanizing. In England, there still are experiments being carried out which also involve arts and totally different ways of dealing with society's disabilities. R. M. Buck's ways was but one of them.
With an excellent cast, and an ability to show something which is poignant and at times unpleasant, this film is truly beautiful and stands out as one of the few.
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