Somewhere in Time

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A Flawless Yet Forgotten Film

Jun 3, 2007
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Rated a Very Helpful Review
  • User Rating: Excellent

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Pros:plot, acting, Reeve, Seymour, filming, music, location, and overall feel

Cons:end may be sad for some people

The Bottom Line: If you can find a copy of this film SEE IT! Somewhere in Time will leave a lump in your throat yet leave you feeling good.


Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie's plot.

Somewhere in Time (1980) was a new film to me and has become one of my favorite films of all time just after one viewing. I mainly chose to view this because Teresa Wright was in it and I wanted to see some of the work she did in her later years as an actress. The fact that Jane Seymour and Christoper Reeve were in it became known to me when the opening credits played.

PLOT

The story opens in 1972 with an old lady sitting alone in live performance theater as college students are having a meet and greet session with each other and expressing their support for a student play write named Richard Collier (Reeve). The old lady approaches Richard, places an antique pocket watch in his hand and says “Come back to me” before she leaves. The story then jumps eight years ahead and we find Richard a seemingly successful writer living in Chicago, IL. Although he has a nice home and has built a gainful career Richard suffers from frustration and writers' block so he decides to pack a single bag and drive off in his convertible to get away from things. As he drives past a sign for The Grand Hotel he decides to spend the night.

Soon after checking in he dresses in a coat and tie before heading down to the dining room. Since he is a bit early for dinner he wanders around the hotel and finds a room dedicated to the history of the establishment. This miniature museum of sorts has silverware, china, menus, and other paraphernalia associated with the hotel through the years. As he turns around he sights a photograph of a hauntingly beautiful young woman that appears to be directly looking at him with a subtle smile on her face. Richard falls in love with the woman in the photograph in a matter of a few moments. After a long and sleepless night he learns the woman's name from the hotel porter and also discovers that she was an actress who performed in the hotel theater in the early twentieth century.

Richard extends his stay at the hotel and spends hours researching the lady's life in the local library. He soon discovers that Elise McKenna, the woman in the photograph, was the same woman who had given him the watch eight years earlier and passed away the very night she left the theater that night. Richard becomes obsessed with the woman more than ever and sets up a meeting with a college professor who is somewhat of an authority on time and space. Instead of suggesting something like construction of a time machine the professor suggests disassociation with the present would allow someone to, at least in their mind, travel to any point in time. You will have to view the film to better understand this concept. In any case, Richard attempts self hypnosis and struggles greatly to travel back to the year 1918 when Elise was a guest at the hotel. Through some miracle Richard falls asleep and wakes to find himself in a room done in a Victorian motif. The rest of the film consists of Richard's pursuit of Elise and his dealings with a man by the name of William Robinson, manager to Elise, who is dead set against Richard having anything to do with his star.

CHARACTERS

Richard Collier is a character that many people will identify with because although he is well to do and does what he loves for a living his life seems to lack purpose and direction. All of his life is not meaningless but once he discovers the photograph of Elise he seems driven to accomplish something that requires winning another individual's love. Up until that point in his life all of his success and failure were a direct result of his own individual efforts. People will also identify with Richard's attraction to a photograph and to a person he knows nothing of as we all at one time or another have done the same thing at some point. Christoper Reeve seemed very much at home with the role of Richard. He was nothing like an actor pretending to be a common person involved in this story but more like the real thing. I would not call his performance deserving of an Oscar but he was better in this film than he was in Superman (1978). Keep in mind that this is from a male perspective. Female viewers of this film will most probably fall in love with the character of Richard as the story progresses.

Elise McKenna is a very unique character in that she is a career woman involved in show business during a time in history when most women were involved only in domestic life. Despite her pioneering and powerful position she is not completely standoffish when it comes to Richard, a complete stranger of sorts, just trying so much to have alone time with her and speak about various topics. Elise, in 1918, is in a predicament much as Richard is in 1980 in that she also lacks something in her life that makes all of her success meaningful; a mate. The idea of how an upper class and cultured lady ventures into the dangerous territory of a love affair with a man that she knows very little about is also one that challenges the Victorian era. Jane Seymour was all grown up in this film as compared to her appearance in the James Bond film Live and Let Die (1973). To be perfectly honest, her looks are what made her performance in this film noteworthy. The photograph Richard views in the Grand Hotel is simply breathtaking and at roughly twenty eight years of age Seymour had a look that made her appear much younger than her actual age. The hair styles and costumes Elise was done up in further emphasized the theme of beauty, class, and ultra femininity so it would have been very hard to find fault with her. To her credit, Seymour does give a very moving speech during a part of the film where she is performing in the theater and veers away from the script to deliver a soliloquy to Richard about how he is the man of her dreams.

William Robinson is the third corner of the triangle of conflict in the story because he desires to keep Richard away from Elise no matter what the cost. The motivation of William's protectiveness of Elise is not perfectly clear. The viewer does not know until the final quarter of the film whether Richard is also in love with Elise and is angered by the idea of another man making advances of if Richard has a completely Platonic relationship with Elise and wants to keep her from being hurt. You will probably recognize Christopher Plummer from such films as Must Love Dogs (2005) or Inside Man (2006). Here he seems to fit into his role much more naturally playing someone who is a snob without knowing it; if you know what I mean. Plummer may be the most down to earth individual in real life but his very prim and proper mannerism coupled with the very formal attire he sports creates a great effect.

FILMING AND EDITING

A few viewers of the film complain that the print is grainy and of poor quality. Having screened the 2000 model year DVD I would disagree with this point of view. The resolution is more than acceptable and the sound is excellent. Having been shot almost entirely on location at the Grand Hotel and the island on which it is situated the entire production is a feast for the eyes. The hotel is also a star of the film since it has such great presence and radiates historical charm. Since its construction in the late nineteenth century the structure must have been host to a great number of real life love stories and thus adds to the realism and effect of the story we see in this film.

The running time is approximately 103 minutes but it felt closer to 30 minutes because the film is very gripping and entertaining. You feel almost cheated at the end because you want the film to go on and on so you can learn more about Richard and Elise. Speaking of the ending, you should be warned that it may be a bit too tragic for some people but on the other hand they managed to make a happy ending out of one that is a tragedy at surface value. I will not disclose any more information pertaining to the plot as to not spoil it for those who have not seen the picture. Editing was flawless because everything seems to fit together in a fashion that allows the viewer to figure out small things along the way that are seemingly trivial matters but turn out to be of some significance later in the story. The theme music to the film is of a quality that will bring tears to the eyes of some people; an outstanding score.

SOCIAL STATEMENTS

Social statements are what I most enjoyed about this film because it explores a few very abstract concepts that have been seen in only a few other films. For example, the aforementioned idea of time travel based on disassociation with things that place one in a said period of time is very interesting. In the film it is never made perfectly clear if Richard actually travels in time to meet Elise or if it is just a case of his mind getting him to 1918 while his conscious self is under self induced hypnosis. Both versions of the film Open Your Eyes (1997) and Vanilla Sky (2001) explore a similar concept in which the time period one lives in is only a matter of the mind and has nothing to do with any sort of physical matter. In those films we are given a drawn out explanation of the plot. With this film the idea of leaving the time travel Richard undertakes as being ambiguous adds to the mystery of the story. Either way, if he actually came into contact with Elise or just created her as a young woman in his mind the story is just as captivating and lovely.

The other major point the story touches upon consists of the random versus destiny series of events that combine to comprise the life of an individual. A comprehensive discussion on this subject is beyond the scope of this forum but suffice it to say that the film will get you thinking. What if the person you were meant to be with never meets you? What if they are married to someone else and living just a stone's throw away from you? What if they lived hundreds of years ago? What if they, like Elise, were your age sixty years ago and life has dealt a hand where the factors of time and space do not allow you to be together? OR Is life much more simple so you find a mate best suited for you and make a go of things? These concepts are very interesting things to think about.

OVERALL

I highly recommend this film to anyone who enjoys a well written and entertaining film. Yes it is a love story and completely romantic in nature but you should not write it off as a film only suited for a woman's cable network. You are getting a recommendation for this film from someone who always enjoys watching Road House (1989) when they rerun it on late night cable TV. The mysticism and hypothetical questions presented in the film make it a winner. You will also form an attachment to the two main characters and want to see them have success together so therefore you will feel the joy and pain as they do during the course of the film. This is by far the best love story put on film; Titanic (1997) is marginal in comparison. The DVD produced in the year 2000 also has an excellent collection of production notes from a few starts of the film and people who worked behind the camera. They all shared stories and trivia that were wonderful. You will also get plenty of information on the Grand Hotel and will want to visit the place to see the unforgettable sites shown in the film. A trip to Grand Hotel is on my to do list but before I go I just have to get rich so I can afford to stay there a week or two in rooms that price for $365 per night at the entry level up to $665 per night for the premium versions. I would suggest you purchase the film instead of renting it because you will definitely want to see it again and would probably feel sad returning a copy to your rental company; that is how good it is.


Recommend this product? Yes


Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Good Date Movie
Suitability For Children: Not suitable for Children of any age


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