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Lathe Of Heaven

01/10/2010. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts

Buy Lathe Of Heaven (2001) in the USA - or Buy Lathe Of Heaven (2001) in the UK

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Region 1 DVD: pub: A&D AAE-70409. 104 minute film with extras. Price: Well, I pulled it for under $ 3.00 (US) from the other side of the pond) stars: James Caan, Lukas Hass, Lisa Bonet, David Strathairn and Shirley McCarthy.

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I heard a long time ago that Ursula LeGuin’s novel, ‘The Lathe Of Heaven’, had been filmed and then came across it by accident and after nine years at such a low price that it wasn’t hard to resist. This isn’t the 1980 TV movie that is far too expensive on DVD but the 2001 film so can’t compare the two at this time.

For George Orr (actor Lukas Hass), reality changes every time he sleeps and dreams. Caught stealing drugs to make him have a dreamless sleep, it only through the intervention of his lawyer, Heather Lelache (actress Lisa Bonet), that the judge orders him to see psychiatrist Dr. William Haber (actor James Caan) to sort out his delusions. Haber discovers that George Orr can actually change reality for real and uses a gadget to get his own brain to act the way Orr’s does with an even bigger change in reality. Interestingly, George Orr’s friend and chess player, Mannie (actor David Strathairn), continually changes occupation but is aware of the changes but incapable of doing anything about it. After a second viewing, I’m wondering if Mannie is a manifestation of Orr’s personality.

Over the length of the film, reality changes eight times (the extras documentary keeps the true number) and you have to keep watch over what changes. Initially, it is just small things like a painting changes but then becomes a window and an increase in Boner’s qualifications. Things change drastically overall and the occupations of all the key players change as well. Actress Shirley McCarthy as nurse Penny has the most radical changeovers which makes her hilarious to watch. Too much on that is definitely spoiler ground but everything has a knock-on effect.

I haven’t read LeGuin’s book in many a year but the only area that the film has deviated from it has been not including the aliens on Earth or everyone going grey but that’s a minor detail. Interestingly, actor Lukas Hass doesn’t actually see the film as Science Fiction but I think that’s more a problem of him just seeing the material that only features rockets and robots. ‘Lathe Of Heaven’ is very definitely an SF film and its subtle nuances make it an intelligent one.

GF Willmetts

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