FILM: Field of Dreams
YEAR RELEASED: 1989
DIRECTOR: Phil Alden Robinson
WRITERS: Phil Alden Robinson (screenplay) based off the book “Shoeless Joe” by W.P. Kinsella
MAIN CAST: Kevin Costner, James Earl Jones, Ray Liotta, Amy Madigan
STORY/PLOT: Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) is a relatively new farmer living with his family in rural Iowa and, as the film’s opening narration mentions, did not have the best relationship with his father (who was a massive baseball fan). One evening at dusk, Ray is walking through his cornfield when he hears a voice distinctly and repeatedly say the phrase “If you build it, they will come”. He also sees a vision of a baseball field on his property, and takes both the words he hears and vision he sees as instruction to do just that — build a ball diamond smack-dab in the middle of his corn crop.
After building the field to proper specifications, nothing happens for months and the farm is in danger of being lost due to lack of money from using cropland for the field. One night, Ray’s wife Annie sees a man standing in the field. When Ray investigates, the man turns out to be Shoeless Joe Jackson (Ray Liotta), a dead baseball player that Ray’s dad happened to love but who also happened to be banned from the sport after the 1919 Black Sox scandal. Realizing that this is a field he can actually play on, Joe leaves but vows to bring others with him when he returns. He does just that and soon many deceased players are playing exhibition games in Ray’s field, though only Ray and his family can see them.
Ray then hears another voice urging him to “ease his pain” and after attending a PTA meeting involving the banning of books by author Terrance Mann, he believes it is Terrance’s pain that
must be eased. When Annie discovers that Terrance was a baseball fan, Ray travels to Boston to track Mann down. Upon finding him, Ray invites Mann to a baseball game at Fenway Park which Mann warily accepts. While at the game, Ray and Mann both see a vision of the scoreboard saying “Go The Distance” and then showing stats for a New York Giants player, Archibald Graham, who played just one game and never had a chance to take a turn batting.
Traveling to Minnesota to visit Graham, Ray and Terrance find that Archibald died more than a decade earlier after spending his life practicing medicine. When Ray goes outside for a walk, he somehow travels back in time to the 1970’s and encounters a still-living Graham, who also passes on the opportunity to play ball again. Yet as Ray and Terrance drive back to Iowa, they pick up a hitchhiker who identifies himself as Graham (and looks to be barely out of his teenage years). When they arrive back on the farm, there are enough players for two teams and Graham finally gets his “at bat”.
When Ray’s daughter Karin begins to choke on a hot dog, Graham leaves the field and instantly reverts back to the age at
which Ray first saw him. After saving Karin’s life, Graham reassures both the other players and Ray that practicing medicine was his true calling and disappears into the cornfield. After the game, Shoeless Joe offers Terrance a chance to see what is beyond the cornfield, and Terrance accepts. Ray is initially angry at not being offered the chance to be included, but Joe scolds him while reminding Ray about the first voice, and saying “If you build it, he will come”. “He”, in this case, happens to be Ray’s deceased father who Ray introduces to his family for the first time just before beginning to play a game of catch with him.
PRESENTATION: Despite the leaps back in forth in time, the film presents events in a chronological order. When Ray travels back in time to the early 1970’s, he is experiencing the events for the first time along with the audience. The movie in some ways plays out like a modern fairy-tale, and presenting it in that way helps preserve the sense of wonder both the audience and the characters feel. By following a chronological order, many of the film’s “a-ha!” moments are kept close to the chest until the story decides it is the right time to reveal them. This results in the on-screen actions of the characters being followed more closely by the audience due to the fact that it can not be easily concluded as to what will happen next. Had the film shown the events in a non-linear fashion, it would have been much easier to connect the dots of the plot and story and the movie would have been nowhere near as engrossing.
Field of Dreams (1989). Retrieved from iMDB (Internet Move Database) at http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0097351/?ref_=ttpl_pl_tt