A Winters Tale by Mark Helprin – A Visionary Fiction Alliance Book Review by Jodine Turner

A Movie Experience of Visionary Fiction

We are well aware that Visionary Fiction, with regards to the publishing industry, is a genre in its infancy, though its form and mode of storytelling is perennial. One way to describe, define, and increase awareness of this genre for authors, readers, agents, and publishers, is to show by example. On our Visionary Fiction website we have compiled a list of books and movies that fall under the VF genre. Book and movie reviews also help increase awareness and understanding of VF. I’ve recently watched the new movie A Winter’s Tale , and found it to be a very good illustration of VF.

Originally a novel written by Mark Helprin and published in 2005, A Winter’s Tale is a time-travel love story that spans more than a century. Despite the movie trailer’s emphasis on the romantic love between characters Peter Lake and Beverly Penn, which is undoubtedly both believable and epic, the movie encompasses love on a much grander scale. And it incorporates the persistent struggle between good and evil, destiny and purpose, timing and fate. Peter, (played with deep emotion by Colin Farrell), is an orphaned burglar trying to break free from under the rule of crime boss Pearly Soames (played convincingly by Russell Crowe). Peter is clever, and under normal human circumstances, may have easily slipped away from Pearly’s jurisdiction. But it so happens that Pearly is a minion of Lucifer (played artfully by Will Smith). And Pearly’s demonic abilities include being able to follow streams of ethereal light to geographically locate whomever he wants to. Pearly is obsessed with his vendetta against Peter, his one-time favorite burglar apprentice. But his obsession is larger than his personal rage towards Peter. He doesn’t want Peter to use his one preordained personal miracle and fulfill his destiny by saving the life of a mysterious red-headed woman.  If Peter does so, it’s one big point for good, one big minus for evil. Peter is given the help of a guardian angel, in the form of a magnificent white Pegasus, who both guides him, and saves him more than once from Pearly’s attempts to capture and kill him. This archetypal, winged white horse sets Peter down in front of the home of the young , beautiful, red-headed heiress Beverly Penn (played by the talented Jessica Brown Findlay, of

Downtown Abbey fame). Peter thinks he is meant to burglar one last time and enters the luxurious home.  Instead of robbing it, he meets up with Beverly, who sees the inherent goodness and noble heart behind Peter’s rough exterior. The two star-crossed young people fall in love. But Beverly reveals she is dying. The story follows Peter’s attempts to save Beverly, all the while evading the grasp of Pearly, who is now after both of them. There are some surprising twists and turns of plot that won’t be mentioned in an effort to not spoil the movie storyline. But the principles of reincarnation, immortality, destiny and purpose permeate the story. There are obvious paranormal aspects. But, more importantly, and bottom line to the definition of Visionary Fiction, the emphasis in A Winter’s Tale is on giving viewers the opportunity to experience a shift in consciousness, an evolution of perspective, through the experience of the characters. What happened for me while watching

A Winter’s Tale was an experience of a vision of hope. In a world that often seems too cruel, too violent, and too unjust, I can find myself feeling disheartened, helpless, and angry.

A Winter’s Tale gave me a much needed boost of faith and hope. Hope in the power of love prevailing over evil. Hope and awe in the power and the patterns of destiny. Those purposes we often can’t see from our limited perspective, but purposes that are, nevertheless, working towards good on a larger scale, in their own time and in their own, often surprising ways. So, yes, despite the critics panning the movie, I left feeling uplifted. (By the way, critics slamming a movie often gives me the sign that I should go see it!) I shifted. I felt the lightness of hope. I felt the power of love – yes, romantic love, but more so, love in all of its myriad forms. I say go see A Winter’s Tale for an experience of Visionary Fiction.


11 thoughts on “A Winters Tale by Mark Helprin – A Visionary Fiction Alliance Book Review by Jodine Turner

  1. vicsmith0123 says:

    Missed this one going through the theaters–no surprise there, busy writers miss a lot of things–but found your article intriguing enough, Jodine, to check why the critics praised or panned it.

    Like everything today, whether it's black or white (red or blue) depends on viewpoint. Take the appearance of the flying white horse, for instance, in the movie.

    Of it the Arizona Republic wrote: "Earnest in its ambition but dopey in its execution, 'Winter’s Tale' never takes flight. Unlike the white horse who shows up from time to time. Sure, this is a fantasy romance, but it can’t be a good sign that the audience laughed out loud whenever the beast appeared."

    Of the same horse the SF Chronicle says, "Besides, 'Winter's Tale' has a magic white horse, and these days you just can't see enough of those."

    It's a different movie if you live in AZ or SF (disclosure: I am the oddball, living in AZ but thinking more SF). All contemporary media seems to look through the lens of prejudice: regional, religious, national, sexual, whatever. Annoying. What happened to seeing things for what they actually are? Perhaps something else for VF to work on and towards.

    • visionaryfictionauth says:

      I guess I view things like SF as well, Vic.
      AZ movie goers laughed out loud at the Pegasus? That bears serious contemplation. Interesting, the prejudicial lens you speak about. I guess muscled werewolves and good looking vampires are more realistic and acceptable!? 🙂

    • alan says:

      Would you really trust the public to appreciate what is happening in this tale? The point is that everything necessary happens when we need it. Those who laughed at the horse had no sense of necessities of myth and faith.

      The book has its difficulties; the film has its difficulties–it all adds up to a beautiful story that, if one will allow for Tertullian's idea that "one believes because it IS absurd." Once the absurdity is embraced, life becomes precisely what we need as we need it. Better than that, we become what others need (I include the needs of animals here) just when they need us.

      Helprin never really achieved anything greater than the unspooling of this tale–and that was all we needed, too.

  2. margaretduarte says:

    I believe that the panning movies such as The Winter's Tale receive from critics as well as viewers is partially due to the way movie-goers are conditioned to expect films of violence and action rather than uplifting, thought-provoking tales that boost faith and hope. I'm often surprised that a movie that has touched me deeply gets lukewarm reception from critics and are hardly box-office hits. It seems the only way visionary elements and the paranormal are praised are in animated (cartoon-like) films by Disney. Otherwise, uplifting stories with characters who have paranormal abilities and perform miraculous deeds, such as–dare I say it–guardian angels are acceptable and believable only if contained between the covers of the Holy Bible or told on Sunday mornings from the pulpits of the church. Then nothing is too extraordinary or dopey. And all is believed.

    • visionaryfictionauth says:

      I love your analysis, Margaret. Exactly why I said I generally tend to like the movies that get panned. I think religious boundaries are slowly giving way to more spiritual perspectives, but it has been a long time coming and we are still far from that switchover. I see that as part of the goal of VF.

    • visionaryfictionauth says:

      Bill, I haven't read Helprin's book but your comment has me intrigued and I have added it to my list of novels to read. I agree about the lyricism – it was evident in the movie so, based on your comment, I expect the book will be well worth the read.

  3. Admin - Eleni says:

    Great review, and your reaction to it demonstrates its VF quality. There seems to be a lot going on here with regards to plot, theme, and meaning. Perhaps that’s why the critics panned it. I think Margaret may be on to something. Movies that tend to be commercial successes rely more on the effects and thrill than the plot. That isn’t always the case, but lately its seems to be the rule rather than the exception.

    I appreciate what you said about the love aspect of the movie being on a grander scale. I’m not a love story fan but appreciate when it moves beyond the surface of romantic love. Titanic surprised me in that way, and I was dragged to the theater practically kicking and screaming, thinking it was going to be just another cheesy romance.

    Your review makes me want to add this movie to my Netflix queue. And that happens rarely.

    Oh, and by the way…I love Pegasus!

  4. visionaryfictionauth says:

    I love the mythic aspect of Pegasus as well!
    And yes, while the romance was clearly central to the story, it was not romance for romance's sake. It fit into a bigger scheme, as I mentioned. And there were other kinds of love (not romantic) involved in the story, which added to the depth of characterization as well as plot and meaning of the overall story. That's part of what gave me that experience of a more hopeful view of life.

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