The movie is based on the true story of Dr. Oliver Saks and his experiments with the drug; L-dopa, (he's named Dr. Malcolm Sayer in the story). Awakenings deals with a group of individuals victimized by an encephalitis epidemic. An unusual symptom left many of them in a catatonic state. Some of these people were "sleeping" for over thirty years.
Saks varied the dosage of L-dopa and finally achieved miraculous results as long-time zombies "awoke." After a "de-briefing" period, these people, with complete lucidity (under medical supervision) continued their lives. The deeper story involves how--after all they went through...they were still prisoners in the hospital. Soon the novelty of being alive wore-off and they wanted complete freedom. Without that freedom, the reality of their lost youth and faded opportunity became more powerful than their second chance.
The situation was emotionally difficult for Dr. Saks too. Saks was not equipped to handle their suffering and depression. Far worse, he couldn't prevent their ultimate, inexplicable return to catatonia. Oddly, after that summer of 1969, such acute recoveries were never again realized. Despite the positivism and endless possibilities of discoveries waiting to be found, this movie screamed out...(a quote from the film); "MIRACLES DON'T COME EASY!" Awakenings had to be a true story, because only real life could be that sad.
Throughout the movie, set against the atrocities and meaninglessness of the Vietnam War, there are subliminal suggestions of other miracles occurring that summer. If you are sharp, these messages can be heard on transistor radios, read from newspaper headlines or seen on TV's in the background.
These other miracles included: The weeks that led to the first lunar landing July 20, 1969.
NEIL ARMSTRONG'S ONE SMALL STEP WAS SO ABSTRACT THAT IT WAS CONSIDERED BY MANY TO BE AN IMPOSSIBILITY. EVEN TODAY, SOME SKEPTICS THINK IT WAS ALL STAGED, ON EARTH.
Through the efforts of NASA, the United States won the greatest prize of the space-race when it defeated the Russians by landing the Apollo-11 rocket and two astronauts, (Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin) on the moon. This miracle rallied Americans of all ages, religions and races as well as the rest of the world, to take pause of its enormity and the far-reaching possibilities for a brighter future. Along the way, this mission's progress was brought into our homes by the nightly news and its eventual victory was broadcasted on live TV. This mega-event came at a good time and was a refreshing contradiction to the negativity of Vietnam War coverage that dominated the airwaves.
The Woodstock Music and Art Festival...better known as Woodstock. Held August 15-18, 1969, in Bethel New York.
SUPPOSE THEY HAD A ROCK CONCERT AND HALF A MILLION PEOPLE SHOWED UP
Woodstock was the crowning testament of the 60's counterculture and the hippie-era. It proved-- that bonded by ROCK N' ROLL, a gazillion people could experience the moment and enjoy the show peacefully even under harsh conditions. Given the violence and death that occurred at similar, smaller, concerts...Woodstock was considered a miracle.
The world champions of Major League Baseball, the miraculous New York Mets of 1969.
THE METS WEREN'T MERELY UNDERDOGS THAT YEAR, THEY WERE THE LONG-STANDING EPITOME OF PITIFUL.
The lovable losers known as the New York Mets shocked the world in the summer of '69 by jumping out of their perenial basement position to over come the vaunted Chicago Cubs, sweep the iron-clad Atlanta Braves in the playoffs and defeat the heavily favored Baltimore Orioles in the World Series, four games to one.
The summer of 1969 was a great time in my life. I was maturing and getting ready to explore the fast-track to adulthood. But the truth is, I had no idea of Dr. Oliver Saks' miracle until the Awakenings movie came out 21 years later. Even with an older sister, Woodstock, and what it stood for went over my head at the time. When I saw the movie a year later, I'm sorry to admit, it still didn't register as anything significant.
I did follow and enjoy the events that led to landing our men on the moon. But I took it for granted. I was too young to understand how far we had come and the dangers involved. It just seemed like a perfectly natural progression.
In my opinion, the truly miraculous event that summer was...the Mets. To my 14 year-old mentality, having experienced their litany of ineptitude...just winning a few more than they lost was miracle enough. But as the summer wore on, my friends and I were permitted the autonomy to attend games unsupervised by adults. Geez, even the sharpest of my crowd was a knucklehead...nevertheless, armed with about $3.00 each, we navigated a city bus and three subway lines from Canarsie to Shea Stadium. A few of these jaunts, in groups of at least five, were to night games, (maybe our parents didn't realize that they were living in New York. Trust me, that was a miracle in itself that nothing happened to us because the subways are much safer now than they were then...moreover, I couldn't conceive of my son Andrew...he's the same age as I was...taking such trips).
To prove how childish my friends and I were, we came early to a game to watch batting practice. We snuck down from the general admission "nose-bleed" seats and positioned ourselves along the railing that separated the seats from the field to beg for autographs. That day I got Cubs back-up catcher Ken Rudolph's and I still have it.
We were between the visitor dug out and home plate when an ABC-TV-film crew set-up on the field in front of us. Soon, Hall-of Famers Ernie Banks and Billy Williams came onto the field with Howard Cosell. We were out of earshot from hearing the interview but we were clearly in the background of the shot. Being fluent, even at fourteen, at profanity, we lambasted the annoying Cosell with a barrage of caustic language. When the interview was over, Cosell causally took a few steps towards us and said something like this to me, "Don't hurry home to watch the 11 o'clock news tonight, because it'll be a miracle if we can that piece!"
I don't know when or if my "awakening" into maturity ever occurred. If it did, I guess you could say...miracles don't come easy.