In the 1980 made-for-tv movie, The Lathe of Heaven, Bruce Davison plays a man who discovers that his dreams can change reality. The film was based on the novel of the same name, which was written by Ursula K. Le Guin. Le Guin herself served as the creative consultant to the film. The film was originally broadcast by the PBS network.
The film is set in Portland, Oregon in the not-too-distant future. It begins by following the life of a man named George Orr (played by Davison) who had recently overdosed on prescription medication that he had been taking in an attempt to suppress his ability to dream. As a result of this, George is forcibly assigned to the care of a psychiatrist named Doctor Haber. George initially tells the doctor that he’s been having dreams that can change reality since he was 17, and that when he dreams of something, the next day it becomes a reality.
At first, the doctor is skeptical of George’s claim that his dreams can affect reality. But he subsequently decides to conduct hypnotic therapy on George with his consent, in order to better understand George’s condition. As part of the hypnosis, the doctor gives George suggestions of topics to dream about so that he can dream about that instead of the involuntary dreams that he’s been having. The doctor’s aim is for George to have pleasant dreams (at first). Nevertheless, through the hypnotic therapy, the doctor comes to realize that George does indeed have what he terms “affective dreams” and that therefore those dreams can in fact alter reality. The doctor then decides that he’s going to manipulate George’s dreams in order to "make the whole world right" with the use of a special machine known as an Augmentor.
George soon becomes aware that the doctor is using both him and his dreams to alter reality to his wishes, and he feels that the doctor is treating him like an experimental animal. He consults with a lawyer named Heather (played by Margaret Avery of The Color Purple fame) in an attempt to end his therapy sessions with the doctor. She’s initially skeptical of George’s story about his dreams, but she agrees to help him out. She gains permission to be present at one of his hypnotic therapy sessions with the doctor, at which she portrays herself as someone who was sent by the government to be an official observer of these sessions.
It is during the session witnessed by Heather that the Augmentor’s effect causes George's brain to readily accept a suggestive dream about controlling the world’s overpopulation. The result of that is that George dreams of a plague that wipes out most of humanity, and in reality the dream causes 6 billion people to disappear. Upon waking up, George confronts the doctor and tells him to take responsibility for having caused the dream to happen, but the doctor deflects the responsibility by telling George that it was his dream that caused the plague and that the dream came from his own mind. George tells the doctor that his attempts to use his dreams to make the world a better place can destroy it. But the doctor claims he can learn to harness George’s power because he believes that the purpose of man is to build a better world. George decides to distance himself from the doctor and runs away to a remote cabin on the coast. There, he reunites with Heather and tells her that he needed to get away from the doctor because he was just using him to manipulate his dreams. Heather convinces him to let her hypnotize him so that he can dream that everything is ok and so that he can wake up feeling rested and well. But that dream only serves to make things worse, leading to an alien invasion on Earth.
George then consents to have the doctor perform one last experiment on him, so that George can have his last affective dream. By doing so, George would have something that he's always wanted: to be cured. Under hypnosis, the doctor suggestively tells George to dream that he's lost the ability to dream affectively. What the doctor intends is for George's final affective dream to be able give the doctor himself the ability to control reality through dreams via the Augmentor machine. This comes to pass, and the doctor believes that a new era will begin, since affective dreams have eliminated the world’s social ills such as war, hatred, disease, and overpopulation. But ultimately, things don't turn out quite as the doctor had planned.
I would say that despite all of the years that have gone by since this film originally aired on tv, it still holds up pretty well for a science fiction film. It’s got this fascinating indescribable quality that’s particular to some of the films from the late 70s and early 80s. The whole look and feel of the film makes for a very engrossing watch. And, it also has a synthesizer music score, which that too was typical of many films from that time period.