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field of dreams
shoeless joe jackson
ray kinsella
w p kinsella
magical realism
fantasy real
corn crop
baseball field
Field Of Dreams Cast A Spell Over Me
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Field Of Dreams Cast A Spell Over Me

The movie Field of Dreams cast a spell over me the first time I saw it. I was both mesmerized and fascinated by the story, the plot, and the concept of combining real characters with what amounted to, for lack of a better word, ghosts. Occasionally, Hollywood cranks out a movie pairing reality with fantasy, and the label given just such a combination is 'magical realism'. Want some other examples? 'Groundhog Day', 'O Brother Where Art Thou', 'Edward Scissorhands', 'Big', and 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon' are all popular movies that fall into this category.

What makes a 'magical realism' film successful? The prevailing wisdom requires that the normal, real characters in a story treat the magical elements or characters in that same story as normal, functional objects. At the bare minimum, it's important they not be treated as freaks of nature or peculiar oddities. One website speculates the success of a magical realism movie lies in its verisimilitude.

I have no idea what that means.

What is clear, however is that Canadian writer W.P. KInsella (real) combined magical realism and a small dose of time travel to produce Shoeless Joe, the 1982 novel that eventually spawned the 1988 Academy Award-nominated blockbuster Field of Dreams.

I'll admit my first trip through the movie was a wee bit confusing, but the gripping story lead me to watch the movie again--immediately! Things became crystal clear after the second go-round.

Iowa farmer Ray Kinsella (real) hears a whispering voice (fantasy) while working in his cornfield on a hot summer evening. The voice wants Kinsella to build a baseball field (still fantasy at that point) in the middle of his real corn crop and shows him an image of Shoeless Joe Jackson (real AND fantasy--real, in that he was once a major league star, but fantasy in that his ghost appears in the movie. After all, Jackson's dead. Died in '51. He's dead). Kinsella eventually figures out that building the ballfield will allow Shoeless Joe Jackson and the other seven banned members of the 1919 Chicago White Sox to play baseball again. (Of course, the other seven White Sox players fall into the same real/fantasy category as Shoeless Joe). After farmer Ray builds the ball field into a reality, the whispering voice strikes again: "Ease his pain". Ease whose pain? Ease what pain? Kinsella eventually determines the destruction of Ebbets Field (was real, now history) caused pain for writer and social activist Terence Mann (a fictional character for movie purposes but patterned after real-life writer J.D. Salinger). After Kinsella and his wife simultaneously dream that Ray attended a baseball game with Terence Mann at Fenway Park (real since 1912), the dazed and confused farmer tracks down Mann and actually takes him there. While watching the game between the Red Sox and A's (both real baseball teams), 'the voice' speaks again: "Go the distance." Both men see lifetime major league baseball statistics for Archibald 'Moonlight' Graham (another real and fantasy dude). The duo eventually connect with Graham after traveling to Chisholm, Minnesota, and all three wind up back at the ballfield in Iowa.

Near movie's end, after watching the ghost players finish an evening practice, Ray sees, in catcher's gear, his own deceased father (real at one time, of course, but ghostly for movie purposes). Sadly, father and son had experienced a rocky relationship while the elder Kinsella was alive, including a refusal by young Ray to play catch with his baseball-loving father. Haunted by years of regret, and eager for redemption, Ray finally gets a chance to say something real to his father that he's been fantasizing about for years: "Hey Dad, wanna have a catch?"

Is that a wonderful combination of reality and fantasy, or what?

In summary, some characters in the movie Field of Dreams are real. Some characters are fantasy in a realistic setting. And all the parentheses you've seen throughout this article have been the real thing.

If you haven't seen the Field of Dreams movie, get a copy and pop it in the DVD player. Then sit back, relax, and let Field of Dreams cast a spell over you.


Street Talk

Scott10  

Awesome movie! Thanks for reminding me to watch it again

Reply
  about 9 years ago

I still have yet to see it, but after recently seeing Kevin in For Love of the Game, I am going to have too! I was impressed!

Reply
  about 9 years ago

Magical realism? I like that description and I must say that's the style of movie I do enjoy. I love your review of this movie, Bill. You shed light on many layers of it that are easily missed. Great insight, and super article, as usual.

Reply
  about 9 years ago

You are making me want to watch it again for maybe the fifth time.

Reply
  about 9 years ago
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