Film (1983). A JF Production/MGM/UA. Directed Douglas Trumbull. Written by Robert Stitzel, Philip Frank Messina, based on a story by Bruce Joel Rubin. Cast includes Louise Fletcher, Cliff Robertson, Christopher Walken and Natalie Wood. 106 minutes. Colour.
A team of Scientists including the estranged husband and wife Michael Brace (Walken) and Karen Brace (Wood) invent a Virtual-Reality device which faithfully records human experiences (including the accompanying emotions) and allows them to be re-experienced by another person. There is some byplay with a shared VR tape-recording of Sex, leading to a sensory-overload Basilisk effect when the replayed orgasm is spliced into a continuous loop. This promising notion is frittered away – first because, despite Trumbull's special-effects expertise, the cinematic equivalent of these experiences is just like old-fashioned Cinerama and has no emotional content at all (obviously); second because the device is largely used to reconcile Michael and Karen Brace by replaying the one's banal romantic feelings for the other; third because, after team member Lillian Reynolds (Fletcher) dies, thoughtfully recording her death experience en passant, we get to share her experience to anticlimactic effect. This playback, supposedly almost lethal to the viewer, shows that the last great journey consists of cute bubbles with pictures inside them. Most unfortunately, Natalie Wood drowned while filming was still in progress, which necessitated a few last-minute rewrites that do not work. Rubin, writer of the original story, was obviously obsessed by afterlife experiences, and went on to script, among others, Ghost (1990) and Jacob's Ladder (1991). [PN/DRL]
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