A&E’s Lathe of Heaven came as a total surprise. I had no idea that an adaptation was in the works; I was surprised that it was on A&E and not scifi; and I was surprised to see respected B-list faves leading the cast.

We clicked into it about halfway through, and I immediately wanted to take the costume designer to task for absurdity; shortly, however, it became apparent that the costumes were necessarily wacky because it was one of the primary ways that the plot was moved forward.

The plot concerns an unhappy young man who lives in a dystopia; he believes his dreams change the world around him. The changes are signified partially via the costumes.

In addition to the lead, George Orr (…well, no accident), played by Lukas Haas; we had Lisa Bonet, James Caan, and the music of Angelo “Twin Peaks” Baldamente. The flat, unsettling tone of the music, combined with the monochrome mise-en-scene employed in the dystopian sequences very nicely captured the flavor of the original work, one of the true greats of 70’s SF (by Ursula K. LeGuin, whose body of work I must reread soon).

I have vague memories of reading the work, originally, but I do recall the deep sense of unsettlement I had on completing it. I suppose it helped form my tastes for more than a few of the great dystopians of seventies SF.

Unfortunately, the A&E site is flash based and does not link easily to detailed production info. I was reminded of some european sf comics.

However, the subdued, flat quality of the actors’ delivery, combined with the score and the inherent dystopian subject matter made for what I would characterize as appropriately leaden viewing. How can I express this?

I really, really like the original Russian film of Stanislaw Lem’s Solaris, which has long stretches with no dialog or action on screen, and is also about subjective perceptions and danger. But the film is renowned for its’ oppressively slow pacing. That pacing is absolutely appropriate to the subject matter, and it makes the film physcally uncomfortable to watch.

This film doesn’t have the ambition or scope of Tartovsky’s; but it’s interested in similar effects.

I totally missed the PBS adaptation a few years ago, so I cannot draw a comparison to that series.

2 thoughts on “I obviously need to read the trades more often

  1. Actually, I seem to recall discussing the PBS adaptation of this – which came out in 1980, a bit more than a few years ago – with you back in the day.

    It creeped me out at the time, I recall. I knew this one was coming on to A&E, but totally spaced asking TiVo to grab it for me.

  2. Hm. It re-aired a couple years ago, and I missed it then. I don’t recall much else about it – some sort of impression of a shot-on-video look (a la Dr Who), a lot of blue and silver, and that’s the whole thing. I don;t recall if I actually watched it in 1980 or started to and couldn’t get into it. Given my lack or memories, Id guess the latter.

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