Sunday, January 2, 2011

Field Of Dreams (Director's Commentary Track)

Perhaps the most informative and interesting film commentary track I've ever come across, listening to Phil Alden Robinson (the director, pictured to the left) and John Lindley (the director of photography) fondly discuss the things that went on in making this classic film is a true joy. Incredibly enlightening, yet at the same time not merely a by-the-numbers recitation that would bore the audience to sleep. Both Robinson and Lindley are sitting in the same room at the same time while doing the track, so right away it makes for a more interesting piece, as the two are almost having a conversation about the film while it plays.

Tremendous insight is given into an already deep story, with explanations that add meaningful layers to scenes that already pack a powerful punch. Motivations for scenes are provided, reasons for changing things from the W.P. Kinsella novel Shoeless Joe (the source of the film) are given, and anecdotes about the challenges and the joys of the filming itself are relayed to the audience. When watching a film, especially one with as wonderful a story as Field Of Dreams, you can easily forget some of the little things going on that take a backseat to the story itself, but Robinson and Lindley point many of these things out in the course of the track. Once you hear them, you realize that, although you didn't absorb it on a conscious level, subconsciously you did, and because of that, it helped to make that given scene that much more effective.

Obviously Robinson's working relationship with Kevin Costner, along with many of the other fine performers in the film, is one of the focal points of the commentary. Several interesting stories concerning James Earl Jones are brought up as well. In fact, Robinson has at least one anecdote for nearly every major performer in the film, as well as some of the minor character actors who were there for as little as one day of shooting.

One of the other major things repeatedly discussed, although in various ways so as to keep it interesting, is how important the lighting was in many scenes, and just how much of a crucial role it played in the overall look, and feel, of the film. Since this is very much a film of feelings, setting just the right tone for that is extremely important, and Robinson and Lindley convey that wonderfully, without turning it into a boring lecture that can put you to sleep.

Robinson also tells numerous stories of his relationship with Kinsella himself concerning converting the book into the movie. All the stories are insightful, and help to add to the wonder of the film. And as a testament to the power and beauty of the film, despite the audio commentary pretty much drowning out the sound and dialogue of the picture, I am still incapable of watching the ending without crying.

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