The Lathe of Heaven

Enjoy this incredibly fuzzy graphic.
"From the makers of Overdrawn at the Memory Bank"

Okay, that's a little misleading, it was just also produced by the same public television station, it didn't actually have the same director or anything. Also it wasn't an utterly ridiculous movie. The Lathe of Heaven was a TV movie based on a novel of the same name written by Ursula K. Le Guin in 1971. It was made on a micro-budget by a public television station in New York, WNET. It was to be the first in a series of TV movie adaptations of science fiction works, though in the end only this and one other, Overdrawn at the Memory Bank (which I recommend watching via the MST3K episode, it is ridiculously bad). The film was shot on an astonishing 250,000 dollar budget, and released in 1980. Le Guin, who's work was being adapted, was personally involved in casting, scripting, and filming for the movie, to ensure a faithful adaptation. I felt that really showed, because this film does very closely follow the book in terms of content and tone, and even manages to retain a lot of the subtler implications of the original novel. That makes it rather distinct from the bulk of science fiction movies ever made, because rather than being a movie about things happening, it is first and foremost a movie about ideas. It explores the implications of its premise, even as it concludes the plot. But before I keep going on about all that, what the hell is it ABOUT right?

Bruce Davison plays George Orr, who points
The Lathe of Heaven follows George Orr (Bruce Davison, he was in the Harry and the Henderson's TV show, also Senator Kelly in the X-Men movies) a very average man who has a very strange problem. He lives in a near future version of Portland Oregon, where he has been charged for the misuse of prescription drugs in an attempt to prevent himself from dreaming. To avoid incarceration, George is sent to mandatory psychiatry under a oneirologist named William Haber (oneirology is the scientific study of dreams). George explains to Haber that he doesn't want to dream because his dreams alter waking reality, and he has no control over them. Initially Dr. Haber believes (understandably) that George is a lunatic, but he comes to realize that George really DOES have this power, and naturally seeks to understand and then later, exploit George's powers, with the intent of bettering the world (which as we see in the movie is in a pretty sorry state, much like the real world). This plan goes horribly off course naturally, and the world is irrevocably changed by the actions of the doctor and his patient. The movie mostly deals with the implications of such a power existing, and what happens when someone attempts to exploit it. Among other things, there are aliens.

Look at that alien. You can almost see it over there!
Going in, I had very little in the way of expectations for this movie. It is older, had a tiny budget, and was made for public television. Those are not qualities that inspire a lot of confidence in a person. Despite that, I found this movie to be generally a pretty high quality piece, faithfully adapted from the original. Obviously, the extremely limited budget meant that some of the grander set pieces from the novel were impossible, but through judicious use of sets and location shooting, the movie is effectively shot without seeming like they were really leaving anything out. That being said, the effects are obviously far from impressive, being both old and made on a tiny budget.

Wow look how high tech everything is. *snrk*
The plot itself is very interesting if you are into science fiction. While the intent behind the actions being taken are good, the movie explores the implications behind having an unpredictable godlike power, and also exercising absolute power with the imperfect perspective and understanding inherent to the human condition. As an example, Dr. Haber wants to solve the problem of overpopulation, and this results in George Orr dreaming about a plague that wipes out 3/4 of all people in the world. Oopsie doodle. The movie is also about coping with being a person, as a small part of society with relatively little agency over your own life. Also it is about aliens running a junk shop in the future. Just a little bit though.

I highly recommend watching this if you can find it. You'll probably have to resort to downloading it on the internet, as I'm not really sure there actually ARE legitimate ways to acquire it. Also do not mistake it for the 2002 movie based on it, as that movie is rather bad.

That is all for today! I will see you next week!

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