Field of Dreams: 30 Years Later

Can it really be 30 years? Kevin Costner has a full head of hair, so I guess it can.

Field of Dreams is one of those films that gives you chills at certain plot points in the story, when the piano music cues kicks in.  Something weird just happened, like the story just folded over on itself, time just skipped, characters touched that shouldn’t have. Another clue reveals itself.

It’s weird visiting the actual site where it was filmed, like you are walking on hallowed ground.  It’s just a movie. But unlike other films, you can touch it, walk on it, see it. If you are driving close to Dyersville, Iowa, stopping by is almost required.

The moment Joe Jackson (Ray Liotta) shows up on the field at night, you know the film is on the right path.  The path to where? Somewhere really interesting.  You just enjoy the ride.

“I wept when I read the finished screenplay. ‘This is my own work doing this to me,’ I said. “How can this happen?” W. P. Kinsella remembered after Phil Alden Robinson showed him the screenplay after condensing the 300-page novel.

We all know the film. The clues. The cross-country trip. Taking Terence Mann to Fenway Park. The side trip to Minnesota to find Moonlight Graham. Instead, they encounter elderly Doc Graham, who supposedly died years earlier. Summoned home to face the loss of their farm, they pick up the younger Graham looking to play baseball. Once they arrive home they find teams of players playing baseball. Young Graham finally gets to bat, then becomes Doc and saves the girl from chocking. And everything is revealed.

The writer of the novel that Field of Dreams is base on, W.P. Kinsella, used the name Kinsella in the story, not because of himself, but because the name was used by writer J.D. Salinger, who was a character in W.P.’s original novel.  Confused?  In the film, the writer’s name is Terence Mann, but was actually J.D. Salinger in the book.  Salinger did not want his name used in the film.  Salinger had used the name Kinsella in several of his works, and W.P. Kinella thought it was some weird kismet if he used both Kinsella and Salinger in the original book, which was originally called, Shoeless Joe.  I feel like the narrator in the TV series, Soap.

I think we can relate to getting in a van to travel in search of a salve to heal the fissure in a relationship.  That usually does not work, but it’s an effort, we feel like we’re doing something, even if it the wheels of the van are spinning in place.  What we really want is to turn back the clock and redo something that took place or should have taken place, but time is unrelenting, it only moves forward.

“I came to realize the absolute power of the great movie that Phil Robinson had created. For every night, one could hear the sniffling and snuffling of the audience, and the unabashed and unashamed tears that flowed as the universality of the father-son dynamic touched even the most indifferent hearts. I realized that my writing coupled with Phil Robinson’s genius had made that happen.”

What wonderful words.  The film still tightens your throat and wets your cheeks.

Author Kinsella wrote that he receives mail from all over the world from men who were screen-shot-2019-04-13-at-8.12.01-pm-e1555204450862affected by the ending of the film, but some women too.  It is not just a story of playing catch with your dad, it is some activity of bonding between a parent and child.  As character Ray Kinsella struggled with in the film, there were things he wanted to take back, said in anger or immaturity, things not said that should have been.  The thing that is not said about the film, Ray Kinsella has the kind of relationship with his daughter, that we did not have with his own father.  Not a small omission.

Small things over the course of a relationship that might have accumulated into a sizable dream. Or the size of a field, or just the size of a full heart.


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