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Gates of Heaven (2005)

Lucille Billingsley , Zella Graham , Errol Morris  |  NR |  DVD
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)

Price: $4.98 & FREE Shipping on orders over $35. Details
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Product Details

  • Actors: Lucille Billingsley, Zella Graham, Cal Harberts, Dan Harberts, Phil Harberts
  • Directors: Errol Morris
  • Producers: Errol Morris
  • Format: Closed-captioned, Color, Full Screen, Subtitled, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: MGM (Video & DVD)
  • DVD Release Date: July 26, 2005
  • Run Time: 85 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00094AS6I
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #31,657 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Gates of Heaven" on IMDb

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

From Academy Award®-winning* director Errol Morris (The Thin Blue Line) comes this acclaimed film about success and failure in the grave business of animal interment. "Memorable, moving and poignant" (Channel 4 Film), Gates of Heaven is "so rich and thought-provoking it stays in your mind for tantalizing days" (Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times). When financial hardship forces California's Foothill Pet Cemetery to close its pearly gates, its dearly departedloved ones are relocated to the nearby Bubbling Well Pet Memorial Park. During this tense transition, filmmaker Morris meets a collection of eccentric cemetery operators and anguished animal-lovers and elicits a meditation on love and loneliness that's "strange, chilling [and] appallingly funny" (Newsweek). *2003: Documentary Feature, Fog of War (with Michael Williams)

Errol Morris launched his fascinating, Oscar-winning career with this instant classic, a documentary about pet cemeteries. The subject is darker and weirder than even Stephen King could dream up, yet the movie is also wildly funny and lingeringly sad. As Morris gets his people to soliloquize for the neutral camera, they confirm that their love for their pets is utterly sincere--and that eccentricity runs deep in the American grain. Although the ostensible topic is animals, the owners and clients reveal much more about the species that walks on two legs; the depth of human feeling on display is bottomless, and the ability of humans to anthropomorphize their pets is astounding. (Surely some of these animals must be utterly bewildered by their keepers.)

The film looks at two California cemeteries, one failed, one flourishing. First-time viewers often have the experience of laughing through the first half of the picture--this is an outrageous group of people who wouldn't be out of place in a Christopher Guest comedy--and then growing emotionally involved. Morris's flat, dead-on style makes the movie a mirror, so that cynics will see a fool's parade of weirdoes, while pet lovers will warmly identify with so much tenderness toward animals. (And Roger Ebert, the film's biggest champion, will see one of the 10 best movies ever made.) It's a strange experience, but likely one you'll never forget. --Robert Horton

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
36 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The paradox July 24, 2005
You don't know me. I'm not given to hyberbole. But, Ebert's right about this film: There's not a better American film. And it IS a thoroughly American film. It's about business, money, pets, love, success, failure. It's all here. I'm grabbing this and taking it with me when the spaceships come. (They're due in September.)
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars human nature on film August 23, 2003
By timmy
Format:VHS Tape
Here's what is amazing about Gates of Heaven: Two completely different people could watch it and both enjoy it from different perspectives. For one, this could be a heartwarming, courageous tale about dedicated pet-owners and their struggle to build pet cemeteries. For another, this could be simply a hilarious look at human nature and its peculiar quirks and tendencies.
Errol Morris knew he was getting more than information about pet cemeteries when filming Gates of Heaven; he was capturing real, sincere moments by people possessing all kinds of characteristics. Sadness, cynicism, laughter, envy, and the unflinching love for pets is present throughout Gates of Heaven. This film isn't really a documentary about pet cemeteries at all. Rather, it is about human beings, the passions we have, and how we achieve them in this life. Near the end of the film as I watched a young hippie cemetery owner playing his guitar up in the hills, I realized how far this film was reaching for, and how successful it was in reaching it.
From the jealousy of a man towards his younger, more successful brother, to the hilarious (and somewhat sad) monologue by a lonely old woman, Gates of Heaven ultimately shows that no matter what people strive to achieve, whether it be pet cemeteries or President of the United States, it's their heart and souls that will remain timeless.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterwork August 1, 2001
Format:VHS Tape
This film, along with Morris' short, "Vernon Florida", and Orson Welles' "F for Fake" get my votes for the best documentaries ever made by American filmmakers. It's a shame and a sham that this film is out-of-print, let alone not the subject of a Criterion DVD. It's difficult to explain just what is so triumphant and beautiful about Morris' films, this one being his best. You could say, "Well, it's these people he finds," and you'd be right but not really hitting it on the head. He somehow does better than anyone else what you must do to create compelling "true stories" - you must get your subjects to reveal themselves completely, to speak for the camera from their heart-of-hearts. This movie is "about" people who have a passion for their pets, especially the final resting places of their pets. But Morris' camera, within that framework, records an unfolding of universal truths. You can't buy this great movie from Amazon - but your local Blockbuster probably has it. So, as soon as you can, head next door to your local independent video store and rent it. In fact, you should probably hook up a second VCR and rip it for yourself. It's worth it.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Strange, Sad, Hilarious & Profound May 14, 2006
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
This unique film represents not only the beginning of Earl Morris' career, but the finest look at the American obsession with the treatment and care of our pets.

The format is simple; we are introduced to a man whose dream of a pet cemetery has failed. The remains of those animals were sent to another pet cemetery that is flourishing. In between, we meet the owners of both cemeteries and some of the pet owners and hear stories on a variety of subjects. It's hard to categorize this documentary as a comedy or drama since the tone is so straightforward. But that allows "Gates of Heaven" to soar above such conventions and reach a level few films ever have.

Some of the interviews are quite funny and I think all of us can relate to a scene early in the film when an elderly lady is holding her dog near her face and asking him to sing. Another very bizarre image is the sight of a man player his electric guitar at full blast overlooking the pet cemetery.

I was particularly moved by the stories of the two sons of the successful pet cemetery owner. The younger one seems quite lonely living all by himself, yet he seems content while his older brother is in quite a conundrum. Having failed in previous businesses and now behind his sibling at the cemetery, he's still proud of the "positive mental approach" he's been taught over the years.

The most stunning moment happens midway through the film when another elderly lady sits in her doorway and relates the story of her deceased pet. She quickly shifts to describe her no good son and tells that story in a way that is so natural, yet using words and phrases that Mark Twain would probably admire and be in awe of.

The presentation of the movie is full screen, not widescreen.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is Great! October 15, 2004
Format:VHS Tape
I read Ebert's review before I saw the movie. Although I tend to agree with Ebert, I went into the film expecting to be let down. I watched it with my wife. After the first 15 minutes we looked at each other and sighed "boring". Then something strange happened. About 2/3ds of the way through we sat there stunned. My god, this is great!

I could personally care less about other people's pets, but that doesn't matter in this film. Somehow Morris gets all of these people to go deep. The rendering plant owner who makes a business of turning pets and farm animals into soap and glue explains his practical view of the end of life. The man who started a pet cemetery triggered by his hatred of rendering plants and his profound love of animals sounds a lot like the animal rights activists of today.

The sometimes silly but poigniant commentary of pet owners dotted throughout the documentary give glimpses of love and loss.

We were really taken with the second set of pet cemetery owners. They are pure capitalists who are successful in business because they know their customers and how to squeeze the most out of a buck. In spite of that rather stark exterior, they wonderfully round out Morris's study of human nature. They show jealousy, loneliness, joy, pride, delusion, frustration and cunning, but no apparent love.

I would recommend this film to anyone, but caution the viewer to be patient and open minded, and you will be rewarded.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars For those who enjoy watching people who seem surreal
For those who enjoy watching people who seem surreal. This a history of a pet cemetary and it's founders. They are like Darrell, Darrell and my other brother Darrell. Read more
Published 16 days ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Great movie if you love dogs
Great movie if you love dogs. I would like to see a follow up movie to this movie to see what the people in it are doing today. Read more
Published 22 days ago by MikeTHXearth
1.0 out of 5 stars I thought it was painfully boring and simple
I was not impressed. I have no idea why this film has such a following. I thought it was painfully boring and simple.
Published 1 month ago by T
4.0 out of 5 stars Love my dog!!!
It's a good movie for pet lovers. It validates the real need to grieve when we lose our pets. I also wished I had bought some cheap vacant land that I could have used for my own... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Sarah S.
3.0 out of 5 stars Had High Expectations But Was Disappointed
Just watched this as a video-on-demand rental. I found out about this movie from watching the Roger Ebert documentary "Life Itself," in which Ebert was said to have VERY... Read more
Published 3 months ago by A. Nonnie Mauss
1.0 out of 5 stars Pure torture to endure
I watched to the end wondering why others liked it. It was pure torture to do so. I would definitely not recommend it.
Published 3 months ago by D. Patton
1.0 out of 5 stars Not so heavenly
I rented this video to stream because (1) I love animals and (2) the reviews were good. My partner and I couldn't get through the first half hour. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Lady Ann
5.0 out of 5 stars I Think I Agree with Roger Ebert
Roger Ebert once called this movie a masterpiece and called it one of the top ten movies of all time. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Jonathan Scott
5.0 out of 5 stars Gates of Heaven - in memory of Roger Ebert
Upon the passing of Roger Ebert last Thursday, I could not help but think of the movie Gates of Heaven by Errol Morris. There is no need to review it here. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Robert Melton
5.0 out of 5 stars Stil the best American documentary.
I love EVERYTHING that Errol Morris does. My earliest introduction to his work was "Vernon Florida", which blew me away with its technique, but also because it helped my... Read more
Published 19 months ago by D. Stillerman
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