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Lathe of Heaven, The

Entry updated 28 December 2020. Tagged: Film.

Made-for-tv film (1980). TV Laboratory WNET/13, New York, for PBS. Produced and directed by David R Loxton and Fred Baryzk. Teleplay Roger E Swaybill, Diane English, based on The Lathe of Heaven (March-May 1971 Amazing; 1971) by Ursula K Le Guin. Cast includes Margaret Avery, Kevin Conway and Bruce Davison. 120 minutes. Colour.

Made outside the commercial system for Public Television, this may be the best sf television-movie ever made, with innovative use of existing reality (futuristic high-rises in Dallas, for example) substituting for expensive sets. The visual consultant was Ed Emshwiller. The story of George Orr (Davison), who can dream permanent changes to reality, is both here and in Le Guin's chilling original a moral fable rather like the fairy-tales about three wishes. Orr's talent is exploited by an ambitious psychiatrist (Conway), but every time he tries to dream a better world something frightful goes wrong, Overpopulation being cured by a Pandemic or, later, racism cured by everybody turning grey (see Race in SF). The deliquescence of reality, whose binding glue is ultimately in danger of dissolving – the ending is ambiguous – is subtly caught, and the viewer has to be observant to register every change. [PN]

see also: Virtual Reality.


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