Archive for June, 2011

THE DEAD ZONE, David Cronenberg (1983)

Posted in Directors, Drama, Sci-Fi with tags , , , , , on June 9, 2011 by Toi Brownstone

Sorry fellas! I hadn’t realized it’s been near a month since I don’t post anything, time really goes fast and I’ve been quite busy.

As already told, my idea is to review as many possible Cronenberg’s as possible, but it’s going to take a little longer than supposed, because this is the excuse to purchase all of them, despite the fact that I commented on many in the past I don’t have with me any longer.

Anyway, now it’s time for The Dead Zone, probably my favorite of the Canadian. Imagine how much I love this film, I’ve bought it like 3 times by mistake thinking I didn’t have it in my collection yet, however I got a collector’s edition 3 years ago or so.

Cronenberg was assigned to adapt Stephen King’s best-seller, a fact that could had affected negatively to the final result, but wasn’t an obstacle to deliver an amazing film.

Book adaptations are tough tasks, to  summarize hours of reading into a script into 100 minutes, keeping all the essence and portrait what’s in the characters’ minds. Most times I find myself often thinking movies lack of the intensity of the books, yet I cannot stop watching them. Disappointment is an often feeling.

I think I first saw the film ages ago, and then read the book, which I felt in love with, however I must admit I adooore Johnny in the film the most.

Johnny (Christopher Walken), is a literature teacher at a high school, an average good man very in love with his girlfriend Sarah (Brooke Adams). On a rainy night, he’s involved in a fatal car crash which leaves him out of play in coma for 5 years. Obviously, when he awakes, everything has changed…for worse. To start with, his girlfriend eventually gave up on waiting and got married. Physically crippled, soon he discovers he’s able to somehow foresee the future by means of visions, but these violent episodes have side effects, and his health is weaking progressively. Thus, the unfortunate Johnny is able to change the future, but because of this condition, cannot get along with his personal life.

Johnny’s story is told, since he wakes up from coma, as if divided into the most relevant chapters in his life, stories totally different one from the other, involving different people, and showing the increasing depression Johnny is submitted to, unable to find his place in this changed world.

The only two characters somehow present from the beginning to the end, are Sarah and the ambitious politician running for senator, Greg Stillson (Martin Sheen), both essential in Johnny’s fate.

Personally, I find Cronenberg’s decision the role of Johnny should be assumed by Christopher Walken was a complete success. Can’t conceive any other actor being Johnny, to be honest. The way Walken shows this man’s misfortunes, his increasing sadness, impotence, and frustration is none of this world. I’ve found myself crying sometimes while watching this film, Walken moves me too much, his performance as a tortured man is awesome, his tears, his hopeless eyes, his anger…you don’t see him as the typical loser, the audience feels truly sorry for Johnny, he definitely does not deserve all what’s happening to him. At some point in the film, there’s a spark of temporary happiness which will last for few hours in his life, and for him, that is worth having woken up from his dead state. It’s really sad, poor man.

Visions remind me of the insane memories of Spider, another character of Cronenberg’s. Johnny predicts future of people he gets physically (initially) in contact with by means of visions in which he’s also takes part, as if he was present. What I mean is that he’s a kind of witness, he’s there although he’s actually not, because whenever he tries to warn people taking part of them, obviously they cannot see him nor hear him.

The intensity of his visions increases all the same as the episodes in which he gets involved. First of them are casual, by chance, and have to do with just helping someone in imminent danger, but later on, the stories will get more complex, affecting Johnny both physically and emotionally.

His love story with Sarah is one of the saddest, an unfinished one, or better said, an extremely heartbreaking relationship, impossible to find guilt or jealousy encouraging  them to end up splitting ways. For Sarah, Johnny’s extended coma was impossible to bear, and loneliness and lack of faith pushed her to find relief in someone else. If you think of that, she cannot be blamed for that decision, how the hell was she to know eventually Johnny would wake up? For Johnny, on the other hand, It was yesterday when he was kissing he goodbye under the rain, his feelings for her hadn’t changed at all.

I’ve never known any acquaintance who’s passed through a similar experience. I know some induced into coma for a week or so, but never more than 2-3 weeks. You think of people asleep for months or even years and, waking up, rather than being joyful, must be a nightmare, especially when starting been aware you’ve been gone for long time, and the world has kept moving, with you not noticing it. Your reality has vanished, and you have to catch a new wave again. Guess this has to be hard to swallow and manage to overcome.

I don’t intend to spoil anything, in fact I’m not telling half the things I’d love to talk about here, but I’m going to speak out loud something moving in my head, a moral question. In case you felt rejected by people, considered a misfit and a freak, and for some reason you were the only one to change the fate of society, at an unconscious risk, would you risk your life by all your means, to change the course of fate, despite the fact that all those people don’t deserve a shit? Or would you go on with your life, pretending to be unaware too?

The Dead Zone is clearly a sci-fi film, but as many of them, there are many subjects beyond you could interpret as a critic against society, politics and more.

The sad story of a guy whose life changes dramatically and receives a gift, which we could say at the end of the day is a curse. Marvelous film, really, you should watch it.