Revisiting ‘Field of Dreams’ (1989)

fod1Continuing this impromptu series of getting around to discs that have been on the ‘to-watch’ pile for far too long, last night I watched Field of Dreams. I remember watching it at the cinema one evening a long time ago in another life, it seems- back when I had another job, a whole different career, when I was single… So much has changed in my life over the past twenty-five-plus years, but this film has been with me throughout that time; this film is a big favourite of mine, easily in my top ten. I have no interest in baseball but that sport is incidental to the films deeper themes about hopes and dreams, and forgiveness and belief. There is more wonder in its near-two hours than any $200 million CGI blockbuster spectacle.

For me its a good film that suddenly leaps into genuine greatness/perfection when Kevin Costner’s character Ray Kinsella meets up with Terence Mann, played by James Earl Jones. The two characters make such a great team, and the two actors share a great warmth and chemistry, its a wonderful partnership. The mystery of Ray’s quest gets really interesting at this point; suddenly its much bigger than simply building the baseball field on his farm. After both hearing a message to ‘go the distance’ when seeing a vision of a players baseball record, the two men go to Chisholm, Minnesota to track down Archibald ‘Moonlight’ Graham (Burt Lancaster) only to find he was the town doctor, who died years ago but is still fondly remembered by townsfolk. In a wonderful scene Ray goes out for a moonlit walk through the town and somehow finds himself in 1972, meeting the doctor who, himself having a restless night, found himself in need of a walk too. The two somehow meet across the space of decades and life and death and have a chat about past hopes/unfulfilled dreams… its like a scene from a Ray Bradbury story (and I love Ray Bradbury’s stories).

The temptation to explain the ‘magic’ of such events (the voice that sets Ray on his quest, the returning Baseball players, the meeting with Archibald that night, and all the rest that occurs) must have been great, as traditionally audiences like everything explained, but it’s all left unsaid, it just happens, Whats really interesting is a viewing of the film raised by James Earl Jones in the discs documentary, in which he suggests his character is itself a ghost all along, just like the baseball players coming out of the cornfield and Archibald’s younger self. Likely non-intentioned by the film makers, it gives events of the film such a sweet twist. You can accept this version or ignore it, but its there.

Such a great, magical movie. The cast is perfect, the dialogue wonderful, the characterisations warm and genuine, the score simply sublime. I was deep in my adoration of James Horner’s scores back then and buying them all on CD, and this score was as perfect as the movie seemed to be. God only knows how many times I must have played the CD of this film’s soundtrack back then.

Which lent a very real sense of sadness throughout my viewing of this film. It was the first time I have seen Field of Dreams following the death of James Horner. The score for Field of Dreams is such an integral part of the piece, its really the soul of the movie, the film pretty much scored throughout from the start to the end, and good grief, the man behind that music is gone now. Such an incredibly sad thing, watching the film, so much that was familiar now so poignant. Horner was so talented, so versatile and yes, creatively on fire back when Field of Dreams was made. With this film Horner was a very special part of a very special film.

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