Brilliant researchers Lillian Reynolds and Michael Brace have developed a system of recording and playing back actual experiences of people. Once the capability of tapping into "higher brain functions" is added in, and you can literally jump into someone else's head and play back recordings of what he or she was thinking, feeling, seeing, etc., at the time of the recording, the applications for the project quickly spiral out of control. While Michael Brace uses the system to become close again to Karen Brace, his estranged wife who also works on the project, others start abusing it for intense sexual experiences and other logical but morally questionable purposes. The government tries to kick Michael and Lillian off the project once the vast military potential of the technology is discovered. It soon becomes obvious that the government is interested in more than just missile guidance systems. The lab starts producing mind torture recordings and other psychosis inducing material. When ...Written by
Eric van bezooijen <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Natalie Wood died before filming was complete, thus the ending had to be constructed from scenes shot earlier. The film was dedicated to her memory. See more »
Twice, when the robot arm sets the "death tape" into the playback machine in the secure lab, you can see cellophane preloading the tape into the player, to give the effect that the tape is self-loading. See more »
After the final credit has rolled, 'TO NATALIE' appears for a couple seconds See more »
In the psychotic episode sequence when Michael's (Christopher Walken) son Chris (Jason Lively) wears the headset, there's a slight difference between the 70mm version and 35mm version. In the 70mm version of Chris' hallucination when Michael turns on a lever sending presumably an electrical current to Chris' head, the camera cuts to and remains on a shot of a circular device with electricity running through it as we hear Michael say 'Now you're gonna find out it's mine!'. In the 35mm version, the shot arrangement is the same except that it cuts back to a close up of Michael saying the line 'Now you're gonna find out it's mine!'. See more »
Brainstorm had a rocky road to completion. After Natalie Wood died before completion of shooting, the studio wanted to shut it down and cash in the completion bond. Trumbull had fought tooth and nail to get the film made to begin with, and when it looked like it would be snatched from the jaws of victory, he hunkered down and dramatically altered sequences to prove it could indeed be finished without Wood's unshot scenes.
The "recorded memory" sequences were even more vivid for us in Indianapolis who saw it at the Eastwood theatre. The Eastwood had one of the few curved Cinerama roadshow screens outside of New York and Hollywood's Cinerama Dome. Think of it as a smaller version of an Omnimax screen. Sitting in the front row, you were completely enveloped by the film, and the visual and audio effect when the "memory" sequences lit up were quite attention grabbing. Trumbull was at this time working on his ill-fated Showscan process for amusement park rides, and was very interested in audience perceptions of diffrent lenses and frame rates. Some of this is used in Brainstorm. It's just not the same on a TV set of any size.
The central core of the story - the recording of the death of Lillian and Michael's obsession to experience it - is a disturbing one, because it explores the very nature of life and death. It can satisfy or dissappoint, because Trumbull has put his vision of memory, experience, death and afterlife on film for everyone to take pot shots at. And they did. It's a shame, because the film is beautiful, thought provoking, and ingenious. Yeah, I know, it has all of that evil government plot boilerplate. Look past it.
(It even revels in the quirks of the researchers, showing the second thing everybody does with new technology is use it for porn.)
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