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Review of the film "Field of Dreams"

26 August 2010

For many years, one of my philosophies has been "Build it and they will come." For example, I believe that if the content on this website is good enough, people will hear about it through word-of-mouth and come to read it. It is a variant of "Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door!"

I have always known that the quote came from the film "Field of Dreams" starring Kevin Costner. However, I had never seen the film which was made in 1989. A few weeks ago I decided to buy the DVD and last night I watched it with my wife.

It is one of the most wonderful, moving and almost perfect films that I have ever seen. My wife and I were completely enthralled by it.

The plot is very simple. Ray Kinsella is a struggling corn (maize) farmer in Iowa. While walking amongst his crop, he hears a voice saying "If you build it, he will come." This impels him to plough up part of his cornfield and spend all of his savings to build a baseball diamond complete with floodlights, and a small set of bleachers (tiered rows of wooden benches).

The field is visited by the ghost of a legendary baseball player "Shoeless Joe" Jackson, and then by the ghosts of other players. Ray Kinsella then finds himself going to Boston to collect a famous but controversial writer from the 1960s, Terence Mann who has become a recluse, and to Minnesota to collect Archibald "Moonlight" Graham whose entire baseball career in the majors comprised coming on once to bat for a few minutes.

Alongside outstanding acting from Kevin Costner as Ray Kinsella, Amy Madigan as his wife, Ray Liotta as Shoeless Joe, James Earl Jones as Terence Mann and Burt Lancaster as Moonlight Graham, many themes come together in this film to make it legendary:

  • Baseball is part of the soul of America, just as cricket is with England. Remember how much baseball matters to Charlie Brown in Peanuts.
  • The complete trust and devotion between Ray Kinsella and his wife who supports him completely in his apparently crazy project. I was reminded of the support Khadijah gave the Prophet (peace be upon him) after he received his first revelation.
  • America's relationship with its heartland. While today the USA is a highly urbanised country with its population centres on the East and West Coast along with places like Chicago, the family farm has a much stronger place in the American heart than it does in the English one. A line occurring repeatedly in the film is "Is this Heaven? No it’s Iowa."
  • The importance of our dreams and what happens to us if we don’t pursue them.
  • The relationship between a small boy and his father.

The DVD contains a long commentary by the director, the cast, the composer and others about the making of the film. On many DVDs such items are off-putting and excessively self congratulatory, but this one complemented the film perfectly and was almost as compelling as the film itself. There is no gag reel or collection of deleted scenes; they would feel like sacrilege with such a precious and sensitive film.

I recommend this film to everyone without hesitation. It is rated PG.



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