Hearts In Atlantis is based upon one story from Stephen King’s novel of the same name, the story entitled Low Men in Yellow Coats, with threads added from the concluding story Heavenly Shades of Night are Falling. Ideally this was screenwriter William Goldman’s best move, as it enabled him to create a deep story on a particular chapter of King’s novel, rather than trying to cover all 500 pages and all the different stories. What results is a tight, 90-minute film full of plot links, symbolism, emotion, comedy and a heart-felt realism. There are themes of love, loss, friendship, life, abuse and what Stephen King story would be complete without mystery and magic?
Premiering in Australia on January 21, 2002 at the Chelsea Cinema on Kensington Road in Adelaide, the film had its debut with guests including director Scott Hicks with producing wife Kerry Heysen and family, as well as Darren Jarman, Triple M personality and ex-Crow footballer. As the end credits rolled, the audience applauded and a roar of clapping hands filled the cinema. As the full house of 580 patrons started to leave, many teary faces could be seen, and congratulations were passed onto Hicks. Now how does yours truly know this? Well some of us are lucky enough to be able to attend events like this. Yeah right, not invited to but working at the Chelsea Cinema. And just wait for the *sigh*...
Prior to screening the film, Hicks and Heysen each gave a speech, with Hicks highlighting the international filmmaking process. Nearly all of the post-production work was completed in Adelaide using a local and highly skilled team of filmmakers. Correspondence was done with the US using the Internet, and decisions were able to be made with Village Warner from Australia without Hicks leaving the comfort of his office. He recalled the speed at which he signed on to this project, firstly receiving a phone call from the US at three in the morning, flying there the next day to meet with the executives, and the next minute signing up the remaining cast and crew.
Adelaide-born Director Scott Hicks was first noticed on the big screen with his award-winning film Shine, then with the acclaimed Snow Falling on Cedars, and most recently with Hearts in Atlantis. But don’t forget his first three films too – it's just that these caught the attention of the wider public. The US premiere was at the Boston Film Festival in September 2001, shortly before the events of September 11, which threw the American film industry into turmoil, with the Spiderman teaser being recut and the postponement of Collateral Damage due to realistic and timely violence. Anyway, it just meant that Australia had to wait even longer for Hearts in Atlantis to reach our shores. Mind you, this film was well worth the wait.
The late Piotr Sobocinski was the marvellously talented cinematographer for this film. This was his last feature film, and he had previously worked on other films such as Angel Eyes, Red and Marvin’s Room. The lighting, angles and photography that Sobocinski adds to the film are simply nothing short of amazing, and priceless to the film.
The score was masterfully composed by Mychael Danna and is touching, with its weepy violin lead and driving bass line. Also scored by Danna was The Ice Storm - an equally as touching work. It is just sad to see that there are only three tracks of the score on the soundtrack. Accompanying the score is a collaboration of contemporary ’60s hits including the powerful Smoke Gets in Your Eyes. These songs play on and off throughout the film and suit the mood, tone and setting of the film incredibly well.
The acting, cinematography, music and sound all play with each other wonderfully, and produce a truly emotional cinematic experience. The clearest example would be during the climb up the hill, at Chapter 20 (Unstoppable, specifically 69:20) where the dialogue plays a double meaning with the current on-screen action as well as a link back to earlier on in the film. The music adds to the climactic power of these images, and takes the audience up to a new emotional level.
|"I wouldn’t have missed a minute of it Bobby, not a single minute. Not for all the world!"|
The role of Ted Braughtigan is played easily by Sir Anthony Hopkins (Silence of the Lambs, The Remains of the Day) who seems to fall right into his role as the mysterious man. Bobby Garfield as a boy is played by Anton Yelchin (Along Came A Spider, Fifteen Minutes), who acts with such skill and talent – more will be seen from this young man. The supporting cast consists of Hope Davis (Mumford), playing Bobby’s mother, Mika Boorem (Along Came A Spider) as Bobby’s young ‘girl’ friend Carol, and David Morse (The Long Kiss Goodnight, The Green Mile) as the 50-year-old Bobby.
With the arrival of a Fed Ex package containing an old baseball glove, successful photographer Bobby Garfield is swept off to his old childhood friend’s funeral. It is there that he learns his childhood sweetheart Carol had also passed away. This brings him back to the family home, and back to his last year as a child. This is the year that the mysterious man arrived and totally changed his world. On Bobby’s 11th birthday, the arrival of Ted Braughtigan (Hopkins) gives Bobby the opportunity to earn money for a bike that he failed to get for his birthday. To earn a dollar a day, Bobby has to read the newspaper to the mysterious man. Ted soon fills the gap in Bobby’s life as the father figure and the relationship between them grows stronger. But who are these men in Stetsons? And what are these notes on street posts looking for a pet cat ‘Braughtigan’? Why is Bobby’s mother always working late? And who was Bobby’s father?
But Ted has a dark secret behind him, and has the power to pass a gift on to Bobby, much more powerful than friendship. There are many relating threads throughout the film, with so many smaller side-plots that make the film more enjoyable. Yet, it is a hard film to summarise – and a challenge that many colleagues at the cinema dreaded to answer.
This film clearly stands out as the best film of 2002 – forget Training Day or A Beautiful Mind, the real cinematic beauty and touchingly unique story lies within Hearts In Atlantis.
What is there to say about a video transfer that has nothing terribly wrong with it? Well, to start with it is presented in its full anamorphic widescreen theatrical aspect of 2.35:1 (although the packaging states 1.85:1) and is 16x9 enhanced.
The colours are superbly rendered, giving realistic and stylistic impressions (Hicks discusses the stylistic presence in the commentary). From the older Bobby’s life, the colours are bleak and contrasting, featuring bright whites and solid blacks. From the younger Bobby’s life, the colours are bright, vibrant and stunningly clear. The reds are solid and bright with no over-saturation or bleeding (even in the blur of a taillight in a misty street), and the realism of the brown and greens in the forest is unsurpassed. Sky blues and golden yellows are similarly mastered with the same treatment and look great. Skin tones are pink and realistic for the entire film, and superbly reflect the surrounding climate. Throughout the film, blacks and shadows are terribly important and are rendered masterfully with rich solid blacks and clearly defined shadows.
Having seen the theatrical print numerous times, the same print that was pristine for the use of the premiere, the image on-screen is incredibly clean. The source stock must have been incredibly well kept, as there are no scratches or dirt marks. There are the occasional one or two flecks that whiz past, but nothing obtrusive nor distracting. The spool change markers have been removed completely and it is an obvious removal for those who have seen the theatrical print too many times... Film grain has been cleaned up remarkably well for this transfer, with it barely being seen at all times. There are absolutely no signs of MPEG artefacts at all even during some of the more prone fast-action sequences.
The clarity of the image is incredible, and shows why DVD is the best format to see movies on. The image is consistently sharp, showing all details with a rich clarity rival to none. Even during the many dark and contrasting sequences, the image never faults and provides the audience with an incredible transfer with which to tune out.
There are very few cases of aliasing during the film, most notably occurring on the bottom of the Warner Bros. logo during the opening titles. This is the worst example, and this itself is minor. Other occurances are on Bobby's shirt, newspaper articles, roof shingles and cane chairs.
Being a dual-layered disc there is a layer change... somewhere. It briefly occurs as 28:54, a moment too late to be in a camera angle change. It does create a slight jump in the picture, and is only mildly distracting.
Subtitles for the English Hearing Impaired have been included and are reasonably accurate to the dialogue – but not word-for-word perfect.
Hearts in Atlantis comes to us with an English Dolby Digital 5.1 dialogue track.
The film is definitely not an all-guns-blazing affair for audio, but still has its moments. The dialogue is driven from the centre channel with an outstanding clarity and absolutely no sign of distortion. All dialogue is easily understood, and at no time is it necessary to replay any section.
Being a dialogue-based film, this is of paramount importance and it is great to hear such a clean transfer. During the final act back with Bobby, it is possible to hear the clarity of a live performance from the orchestra carried through the crystal clear audio transfer.
Effects are generally limited, but at times do occupy all channels discreetly. When used, it sounds great such as the train tracks or the effects at the fair. The subwoofer raises its head every now and then for suitable effects such as the train, thunder and also to support the score. Danna’s score is carried through all of the speakers and the support through the surrounds creates a rich, enveloping effect.