A 'Spiritually Minded' Movie



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Seen through the eyes of a Course student

When I first saw this film in 1998 I remember feeling ill at ease.  I’m sure it was the reminder that someday I would leave my body that made me feel so disquieted.  The viewer realizes almost right away that the film is centered on the challenge of incredible loss and death. Many years later I watched it again with my husband, who had also initially felt ill at ease on the first viewing. We had a totally different experience. Where we once saw only loss, we now were able to see the beauty of knowing how much we are responsible for our 'dream' and how this knowing can open us up to choosing again - with Love.

A physician Chris Nielsen [Robin Williams]meets an artist Annie [Annabella Sciorra] while vacationing in Switzerland. They both feel as though they have known each other forever.  They marry and have two children, Ian and Marie.  

We are taught in the Course that there are no accidents, and that we meet those we are ready to join with in a potentially holy relationship:

There is no one from whom a teacher of God cannot learn, so there is no one whom he cannot teach. However, from a practical point of view, he cannot meet everyone, nor can everyone find him. Therefore, the plan includes very specific contacts to be made for each teacher of God. There are no accidents in salvation. Those who are to meet will meet because together they have the potential for a holy relationship. They are ready for each otherACIM.OE.MNL.3.1

We see this illustrated so poignantly here, as these two Soul mates have come together to awaken to the truth of Who they are.

Their life was good and happy until one day both of their children perished in an auto accident. Afterwards, Annie, their mother, plunges into a severe mental breakdown, blaming herself totally for the accident.

In addition to their being no accidents, we are also taught in A Course in Miracles that death is a decision that we make:

No one can suffer loss unless it be his own decision. No one suffers pain except his choice elects this state for him. No one can grieve nor fear nor think him sick unless these are the outcomes that he wants. And no one dies without his own consent. Nothing occurs but represents your wish, and nothing is omitted that you choose. Here is your world, complete in all details. Here is its whole reality for you. And it is only here salvation is. ACIM Lesson 152.1

However, these ideas were very far from how Annie and Chris were thinking or believing.

It is almost unbelievable but on the anniversary of their children’s’ death, Chris, their father, ‘dies’ in a horrific car accident. One wonders how much pain could this mother endure.

I have witnessed many times the synchronicity between major occurrences in my life and others’ and the dates on which they happened.  I had often spoken with my mother about our having a choice on which auspicious day we will die.  Several years later, she chose to leave her body, from a massive brain hemorrhage, on the morning of her 56th Wedding Anniversary.  Two years later after her passing, a clairvoyant brought me a ROSE from my Mother, which was our ‘plan’. My Mother was to bring me a rose through an Intuitive. What was amazing is I had forgotten about the ‘plan’ and was there to ask about Romance. After receiving the message from my Mother, I cried and then cried even more when I realized what day it was. It was May 5th. The day my Mother passed away!

Remember that no one is where he is by accident, and chance plays no part in God's plan. ACIM.OE.MNL.9.1

In the movie, after his death, Chris’ Soul remains close to his wife’s on earth and he tries desperately to communicate with her. During these attempts, he begins to feel the presence of a Spirit Guide, who tells him that these attempts at communication with Annie will only confuse her more.

As Chris decides to move on, he awakens into HEAVEN - A world which is quite literally and immediately of his own making.  

This is described in the following Spirituality and Practice Film Review of “What Dreams May Come”:

This afterlife reflects the idea that ‘belief creates experience’ or ‘thinking makes it so’ common in today's pop psychology circles. To move through the heavenly realm, all Chris needs to do is see those desired images. This may seem strange to rationalists, but such movement will be quite familiar to those who have practiced waking dreams, lucid dreaming, shamanistic traveling, and other experiences in the imaginary realm.”

And this concept of ‘seeing what we believe’ is also a major principle in the Course.

LESSON 17 I see no neutral things.

1 This idea is another step in the direction of identifying cause and effect as it really operates. You see no neutral things because you have no neutral thoughts. It is always the thought that comes first, despite the temptation to believe that it is really the other way around. This is not the way the world thinks, but you must learn that it is the way you think. If it were not so, perception would have no cause and would itself be the cause of reality. In view of its highly variable nature, this is hardly likely.

We are learning that ‘thought’ precedes perception. I see what I believe is there.

In the film, Chris learns how to navigate in this new ‘imaginary’ world, with the help of his ‘guide’ who Chris thinks he recognizes as his mentor ‘Albert’ from his days in medical residency.  In this new world, whatever he ‘imagines’ becomes real.

As I review this part of the movie, I think of the world I have ‘imagined’ here, in this 3-dimentional world I am experiencing, and I recall what I have read in the Course:

Into eternity, where all is one, there crept a tiny mad idea at which the Son of God remembered not to laugh. In his forgetting did the thought become a serious idea and possible of both accomplishment and real effects. Together, we can laugh them both away and understand that time cannot intrude upon eternity. It is a joke to think that time can come to circumvent eternity, which means there is no time. ACIM.CH.27.79

As Chris becomes more and more familiar with ‘making’ his world, suddenly....


 ....he notices a Blue Jacaranda tree appearing although he doesn’t remember making it. His guide explains that because of his close connection with Annie, and her recent belief that she could communicate with Chris in the afterlife, what she is painting in her ‘earthly dream’ appears now in his dream as well.  When Annie doubts that she will ever be able to communicate with Chris, she destroys the painting and that is when Chris’ experiences the tree dissolving in his dream as well.

As Chris is feeling the pain of separation from his wife he meets an Asian woman he recognizes as his daughter Marie and the reunion is filled with tears of joy.

Unable to cope with the death of her husband, Annie takes her own life. When Chris finds out he is relieved that her pain is over until he discovers that those who take their own lives go to hell.  They are not sent there by any outside judge, but they are sent there by their own imaginings. They create their own ‘nightmare’ of hell based on their own pain and guilt.

Chris now becomes determined to rescue Annie from her ‘hell’.

How many times have we wanted to rescue our loved ones from the pain of their own making and wished we could release them. How many times have we wanted to be their savior and found that we couldn’t. We resisted what they had chosen and persisted at trying to change them.

Even though Albert tells Chris that no one has ever succeeded in going into hell and coming out again, Chris is insistent. He wants to find Annie if only to say a final farewell . Finally, Albert agrees to find Chris a tracker who takes on the form of Sigmund Freud.

There are some twists and turns that will remain for you to discover. What can be revealed is that the tracker warns Chris that if he finds Annie and remains with her for more than a few minutes, he may become permanently trapped in hell.

When Chris sees Annie, she doesn’t know who he is. She has no memory of her suicide or of the past at all. When he cannot force her to ‘remember’ their life together, Chris gives up. The tracker thought that Chris would now return with him but to his surprise, Chris gives up on trying to change Annie. He has chosen to allow all things be exactly as they are. Lesson 152 He has decided to stay in hell with Annie.

When he does this amazingly loving act, Annie is reminded of Chris’ love for her ~ An unconditional, eternal LOVE. It is this that stirs her memories of Who she is.

“Whenever you are with a brother, you are learning what you are because you are teaching what you are. He will respond either with pain or with joy, depending on which teacher you are following. He will be imprisoned or released according to your decision, and so will you. Never forget your responsibility to him because it is your responsibility to yourself. Give him his place in the Kingdom, and you will have yours. The Kingdom cannot be found alone, and you who are the Kingdom cannot find yourselves alone. ACIM OE CH 8.21

And so, as Annie awakens she ascends to Heaven, bringing Chris with her.

                “When I am healed, I am not healed alone.” Lesson 137

“Healing might thus be called a counter-dream which cancels out the dream of sickness in the name of truth but not in truth itself. Just as forgiveness overlooks all sins that never were accomplished, healing but removes illusions that have not occurred. Just as the real world will arise to take the place of what has never been at all, healing offers restitution for imagined states and false ideas which dreams embroider into pictures of the truth.” 5

Annie joined her mind with Chris and realized their oneness. JOINING is HEALING.

“Healing is freedom. For it demonstrates that dreams will not prevail against the truth. Healing is shared. And by this attribute, it proves that laws unlike the ones which hold that sickness is inevitable are more potent than their sickly opposites. Healing is strength. For by its gentle hand is weakness overcome. And minds which were walled off within a body free to join with other minds, to be forever strong.” Lesson 137, 8

As Annie awakens herself and also awakens Chris I am reminded of my favorite part of the Course:

“From loving minds there is no separation. And every thought in one brings gladness to the other because they are the same. Joy is unlimited because each shining thought of love extends its being and creates more of itself.”  ACIM OE CH 22.64

When we identify with love we can let all things be.
When we identify with love we are HOME in our True Self.

  • Starring: Robin Williams, Cuba Gooding Jr, Annabella Sciorra
  • Directed by: Vincent Ward 
  • Runtime: 1 hour 53 minutes
  • Release year: 1998
   Reviewed by Rev Reja Joy Green ~ editor 


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