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Film / Somewhere in Time

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"Someday in the past he will find her..."

A 1980 film adaptation of Richard Matheson's Bid Time Return, directed by Jeannot Szwarc and scored by John Barry. The screenplay was written by Matheson himself.

Even if you have Single-Target Sexuality, you just might give up after finding out that your One True Love exists in a different time period. But that doesn't stop playwright and writer Richard Collier (Christopher Reeve), who for lack of a better description manages to psych himself back in time to find the beautiful woman he's seen in an old photograph. That's right, the space-time continuum is just no match for The Power of Love.

Richard arrives in the year 1912, in the same vintage hotel room he was staying at in 1980. Soon he encounters the woman he's looking for, stage actress Elise McKenna (Jane Seymour). However, her overprotective manager William Fawcett Robinson (Christopher Plummer) won't put up with anyone romancing his star.

This work provides examples of:

  • Adaptational Location Change: The novel is set at the Hotel del Coronado near San Diego. The film was originally going to be filmed there, but it was discovered that it had too many modern touches (like power lines and TV antennas). Eventually a friend of director Jeannot Szwarc suggested the Grand Hotel on Michigan's Mackinac Island.
  • Adapted Out: Richard's brother Robert from the novel is left out of the film.
  • Art Shift: The 1912 scenes were shot on different film stock with different lenses than the present day scenes, to enhance the period feeling.
  • Author Avatar: A story by a writer named Richard centers on...a writer named Richard. Matheson prepped for the original novel by staying for several weeks at the Hotel del Coronado and essentially acting out Richard's character arc. He says the book was inspired by his becoming infatuated by the hotel's portrait of actress Maude Adams (see No Celebrities Were Harmed entry below).
  • Bittersweet Ending: Richard dies of grief after being separated from Elise and returned to his own time, but is reunited with Elise in heaven.
  • The Constant: Arthur.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Elise conveniently dies the same night she gives Richard the watch.
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: Though he doesn't admit to having romantic/sexual feelings for Elise, Robinson definitely comes across this way.
  • Creator Cameo: Richard Matheson appears as the 1912 man who stares at Richard following the latter's less-than-successful attempt to shave with a straight razor. ("Astonishing!")
  • Dies Differently In The Adaptation: Rather than a brain tumor, Richard essentially starves himself to death.
  • Dying Dream: One possibility of the unresolved "did he or didn't he time travel?" is that most of the movie has been a dream of Richards before his death.
  • The Edwardian Era: The 1912 scenes.
  • The '80s: The 1980 scenes. Okay, the very early Eighties.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: Even though the story covers two time periods that are about 70 years apartnote , from Richard's perspective the main events happen over a very short period of time: he stays in the hotel for only a couple of weeks (exactly eight days in the book), and his time spent in the past is barely more than a day.
  • Fashions Never Change: Subverted: Elise informs Richard that his suit is 15 years out of style.
  • Film of the Book: Based on Richard Matheson's 1975 novel Bid Time Return, which was later renamed Somewhere in Time to capitalize on the film's enduring popularity.
  • Forgotten Theme Tune Lyrics: A post-film example — the theme was given lyrics in The '90s and turned into a song of the same title for Michael Crawford. It appears on the soundtrack to his Las Vegas show EFX!, where it served as a prerecorded prelude due to its fantasy theme, but it's easy to interpret the first-person lyrics as coming from Richard's point of view.
  • Gorgeous Period Dress: Elise wears some magnificent examples of late-Edwardian (1910 to 1914) couture.
  • Her Heart Will Go On: Unusual in that the story is seen from the man's perspective.
  • Heroic BSoD: Richard has a major one after he's separated from Elise, to the point of not eating for a week. He does not get better.
  • High-Class Gloves: Elise wears these seemingly half the entire length of her screen time in the film.
  • Karma Houdini: Robinson faces no consequences for having Richard knocked out and tied up.
  • Love Before First Sight: Richard decides to go back in time after seeing and falling in love with a picture of Elise.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane:
    • A definite implication in the original book, averted somewhat in the film, which eliminates the book's subplot that Richard has been diagnosed with a brain tumor. Nevertheless, Roger Ebert writes in his review of the film, "The movie never makes it clear whether the playwright actually does travel through time, or only hypnotizes himself into thinking he does." [1] Arguably, the film provides independent evidence that Richard's journey through time did take place, by showing Elise as an old woman begging him to "come back to [her]" and Richard's interaction with the young Arthur—neither of which happens in the book. Moreover, since the book is written entirely in first person (representing Richard's personal memoir), and since Richard has a medical condition that can cause hallucinations, it has an Unreliable Narrator—so that even the apparent proofs of his time-travel journey, such as his finding his signature in the hotel's archive, are suspect.
    • Robinson's enmity toward Richard has both a simple explanation (he's deeply protective of Elise and a bit of a Crazy Jealous Guy) and some more fantastic possibilities (he can see the future, or somehow knows that Richard is a time traveler).
  • Mental Time Travel: Richard is able to cross time through the means of self hypnosis.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Elise McKenna is a thinly-veiled fictionalization of Maude Adams, the most popular American stage actress of the early 20th Century. Like Elise, Adams was born in Salt Lake City, had a somewhat Svengali-ish manager (Charles Frohman), and retired early from acting (Adams did so for health reasons after contracting a bad case of The Spanish Flu in 1918).
  • Nostalgia Heaven: Richard and Elise are reunited in Fluffy Cloud Heaven upon Richard's death.
  • Obscured Special Effects: The time travel is achieved through the mundane process of self hypnosis. The visuals used to represent Richard's journey through time are similar to those that might be used in any ordinary drama to represent falling in and out of a dream. Reportedly, because the story involved time travel as a plot element, this was done to avoid being lumped in with all of the science fiction genre films during the post Star Wars era.
  • Old-Fashioned Rowboat Date: Not old-fashioned concerning the time it happens. During the Falling-in-Love Montage, we see Richard and Elise rowing a boat.
  • Scene of Wonder: When Richard first mind-travels back to the 1910s era. He steps out into the hotel lounge and is stunned by the sight of The Edwardian Era crowd.
  • The '70s: The 1972 scenes.
  • Shout-Out: Professor Finney is one to Jack Finney, whose novel Time and Again was the Trope Codifier for Mental Time Travel and a big influence on this story.
  • Single-Target Sexuality: Richard and Elise.
  • Something We Forgot: Richard unfortunately didn't remember to make one final check of his pockets before heading off to 1912.
  • Stable Time Loop: The watch.
    • The portrait of Elise that Richard falls in love with also works something like this: after he's travelled back in time and she's falling in love with him, the reason she looks so happy and beautiful in the photograph is because she sees him while it's being taken.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Richard and Elise. They're reunited in the afterlife, however.
  • Time-Shifted Actor: Bill Erwin and Susan French play elderly version of Arthur and Elise, respectively.
  • Time Travel: One of the first films to really explore the emotional effects that a time traveler might experience.
  • Time-Travel Romance: Richard becomes smitten with a photo of Elise and goes back in time to be with her. While not the Ur-Example or even the Trope Codifier, the film is probably the most famous example of this trope.
  • Throw It In!: In-universe. Elise gets lost in her lines in the play, during a scene discussing love; she instead begins daydreaming about finding her (Elise's) real true love. Unfortunately the effect is more awkward and stilted than romantic, at least for anyone who is not Richard. The other actress looks uncomfortable, and Elise's manager is none too thrilled.
  • Wham Line: An interesting use of this to make things murkier, when Robinson tells Richard "I know who you are," but doesn't elaborate. Is it just an idle threat, or does Robinson really somehow know about the time travel?
  • You Already Changed the Past: This is discovered before going back, not after, resulting in Vuja De.


Video Example(s):


Richard and Elise's Reunion

After believing they lost each other, Richard and Elise reunite and kiss.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / ReunionKiss

Media sources: