TWO STARS - UNSETTLING
The psychological games played by Director Cameron Crowe in “Vanilla Sky” are disturbing. Since the end of the film must be revealed to have any meaningful discussion of its spiritual and social messages, we would advise the readers who intend to see this film to come back to this review following their viewing.
The power of the unconscious to communicate through dreams has always been a part of the spiritual and psychological journey. From the dream interpretations of Abraham’s grandson Joseph in ancient Egypt, to the dream interpretations of Freud and Jung in the 19th and 20th century, we have been fascinated with the power of dreams to both enlighten and haunt us.
“Vanilla Sky” opens our imagination to the question of whether a person who has been cryogenically frozen would dream. If the body has been put in a place of stasis, a kind of frozen sleep, would the mind dream while waiting to be revived? And if the mind did dream, would we have the same struggles we now have as our unconscious guilt and fears as well as our hopes and desires create either a nightmare or a pleasant dream?
The central character around whom this discussion centers is David Aames (Tom Cruise). A wealthy playboy whose vanity and self-centeredness cause him to use others for his own pleasure, Aames’ life is destroyed by a jealous girlfriend.
Julie Gianni (Cameron Diaz) has mistakenly believed that she can capture Aames’ heart by having multiple sexual relations with him. But when Sofia Serrano (Penelope Cruz) begins to steal his heart, Julie is so devastated that she decides to end both her own and Aames’ life.
Stalking Aames and picking him up outside of Sofia’s apartment, she hysterically proclaims to Aames that she loves him, and that when they made love, his “body made promises” to her whether he intended them or not. She then deliberately drives off a bridge and kills herself and, though still alive, horribly disfigures Aames’ Face.
The awareness that his behavior has created these consequences haunts Aames’ soul. With his vanity lost and Sofia’s rejection in real life, Aames decides to contract with a cryogenics company to have a second chance at life sometime in the future when they can repair his deformed face and restore his vain existence.
Though difficult to watch, the rest of the film is the nightmare he lives in his dreams while in this frozen state. Full of guilt and aware of his spiritual accountability, Aames creates a hell for himself as his own unconscious sabotages his attempt at having pleasant dreams.
Though the film suggests that he can wake up and Sofia will have reincarnated 150 years later so they can eventually find one another, the truth that Aames has had no spiritual renewal or change of character or heart would imply that even if he had a second chance, it would make little difference in the outcome.
The care of the unconscious, with all its guilt and fear and hope is only possible by a spiritual life that creates harmony within and without. Until such a spiritual change occurs, the experiences of a destructive life will repeatedly create a hell even of a possible paradise.