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Waking the Dead

112 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description


Actor-turned-director Keith Gordon has crafted a touching love story that transcends time, political ideology, and even death. The movie opens in 1974 as Fielding Pierce (Billy Crudup) watches a TV news report announcing the death in Chile of three American activists, including Sarah Williams (Jennifer Connelly), his one true love. The story flashes back to when they first met, showing how he was always more conservative, with grand political aspirations, but the relationship worked because they both shared dreams of making the world a better place, one from inside the system and the other from outside. The movie also flashes forward to his life in the early '80s, when he gets tapped to run for Congress. He starts having visions of her, but he is never quite sure if she's a hallucination arising out of his stress, a manifestation of his political consciousness, an out-and-out ghost, or maybe she's still alive somehow. Whatever she is, his deep longing for her is making him crack up. Gordon smartly jumps the story back and forth in time, forgoing an "objective" reality in favor of a more subjective and emotional one. It is a structure based on memory, and that in tandem with the content is what makes Waking the Dead a very powerful film indeed.--Andy Spletzer

Special Features

  • 30 minutes of Deleted Footage

Product Details

  • Actors: Billy Crudup, Bill Haugland, Nelson Landrieu, Ivonne Coll, Jennifer Connelly
  • Directors: Keith Gordon
  • Writers: Robert Dillon, Scott Spencer
  • Producers: Keith Gordon, Irene Litinsky, Jodie Foster, Linda Reisman, Stuart Kleinman
  • Format: Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English (Unknown)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Polygram USA Video
  • DVD Release Date: September 26, 2000
  • Run Time: 105 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (112 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 6306010947
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #250,387 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Waking the Dead" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 32 people found the following review helpful By R.L. Holly on February 4, 2005
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Keith Gordon has again bowled me over with a magnificent piece of filmmaking. "Waking the Dead" shares many of the same elements as his "A Midnight Clear" (still in my view the best WWII drama of modern times) -- a skillful adaptation of a powerful novel, intense performances from the entire cast, and careful attention to the rhythm and pacing of his story. And two other things that are especially rare in today's mainstream movies: the deliberate ambiguity of the ending and nuanced characters that are neither black nor white but multiple shades of grey. Hollywood must hate this, and it must baffle many moviegoers. The general public is force-fed so many lifeless, undemanding, predictable movies with cardboard characters that they probably didn't reward this gem at the box office (Gordon's commentary track implies that this movie was a semi-flop, commercially, which is tragic -- and probably makes it only harder for him to continue to shoot quality films). One hopes "Waking the Dead" will find its audience on home video, much as the well-respected "A Midnight Clear" (which I saw several times in the theatre) seems to have.

Another reviewer has pointed out the double-meaning behind the title -- the "dead" here refers to both Sarah, believed to be physically dead, and Fielding, who has found his soul wasting away since losing her. Can Fielding bring himself as well as Sarah back to life? The story is also tellingly noncommittal as to Sarah's actual status. By the end of the film, we still don't know if Sarah is secretly alive, a ghost from the other side, or simply a product of Fielding's mental breakdown.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Hall on August 6, 2002
Format: DVD
Writer-director Keith Gordon's "Waking the Dead" caught me off guard and - dare I say it? - moved me to tears. But what's almost as sad as the movie itself is that this 1999 release - which works beautifully as both a tragic love story and a psychological thriller - slipped in and out of theaters virtually unnoticed.
Based on the novel by Scott Spencer, the film opens in 1972, where we meet Fielding Pierce (Billy Crudup), a young U.S. Coast Guard officer with big political ambitions. He meets Sarah Williams (Jennifer Connelly), a secretary and political activist who works at his hippie brother's New York publishing house, and the two are smitten right away. But tragedy strikes ...
Without giving too much away, I will say that "Waking the Dead" cuts back and forth between the early '70s and the early '80s, producing a subjective, stream-of-consciousness narrative that manages to be compelling instead of confusing. Also, I liked the use of color and lighting to visually differentiate between the '70s scenes (warm earth tones) and the '80s scenes (cold, dark colors).
But unlike "The Matrix" and "Memento," which used subjective narrative to play head games with the audience as its central gimmick, "Waking the Dead" is after bigger game. The ambiguity surrounding Sarah underscores how deeply her memory haunts Fielding, the toll it has taken on his mental state, and how deeply they love each other, despite the cruel blow fate has dealt them.
The soundtrack also features lovely songs by Joni Mitchell ("A Case of You"), Lori Carson ("Snow Come Down") and Peter Gabriel ("Mercy Street"); alas, no soundtrack CD was ever made.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By ELA GOKKAN on November 8, 2001
Format: DVD
I won't be writing anything like a movie critic. But I know one thing that this movie is created and I believe the scenario is written by someone who knows what it is to really fall in love and really lose someone you love at such a young age and so unexpectedly.
As someone who has lost my beloved at age 29 due to random murder on street. The way the actor plays out grief process is just real. I BELIEVE THIS IS A GREAT MOVIE WÝTHOUT EXAGGERATIONS AND CLASSIC HOLLYWOOD EMOTIONS, FOR THOSE WHO HAS LOST A LOVED ONE.
The script has exact same statements I have been telling people about how I felt."It doesn't get any better, it just goes on,it just goes on". The behaviour of the people surrounding the grieving actor is just the same I have experienced. All those people who tell you and try to convince you that in time you will start to feel better. But the heartbreaking fact that you never feel any better, you just stop talking about it, you get back into the daily routines and people think that time started to show its healing effect. They are unable to see what goes in your brain when walking on the street, while in a business meeting when alone at home, when making love to someone else -but your loved one-.
I just wanna congratulate everyubody who took part in this magnificiently TRUE story of how one will live after such an unpleasant experience. You couldn't have explained it any better.
A must see!!
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Traveler on July 17, 2004
Format: DVD
I read "Waking the Dead" a few months before watching the movie. I was thus certainly biased in a certain direction in favor of the book.

Keith Gordon, who also directed the outstanding and under-appreciated films "A Midnight Clear" and "Mother Night", stays pretty much faithful to the original material by Scott Spencer. It's obvious that films are different than books and directors need a certain amount lattitude to change the story as needed. Gordon certainly left a lot of the story on the cutting room floor and that is, for the most part, not a problem.

What is the problem is that Gordon didn't flesh out Sarah's story and, as a result, offers a skewed ending that the book doesn't share.

Spoiler Alert

Sarah and Fielding are not "opposites" as many suggest. They happen to agree politically. They're both "liberals." Where they disagree is on tactics. The problem with the film is that we don't really see enough of Sarah to understand just how different her tactics are compared to Fielding and why, ultimately, she chose to go away. The movie's ending is ambiguious about the fate of Sarah. Did she die or didn't she? The book shares some of this approach, but it strongly leans in the direction of Sarah having faked her death. In the book Fielding meets with a priest who states that Sarah is alive. And when Sarah and Fielding finally meet at the end Sarah explains how she is living underground and continuing her work. We're given, at least in the text, a reason why Sarah chose the path that she did. Gordon, however, mostly gives us Fielding's side of things. In the process he detracts from the central conflict and ends up with a rather wishy-washy ending.

I strongly recommend this film.
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