Gates of Heaven
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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
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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.
For those who have never had pets, this film can be hard to relate to. My family has never owned any pets, but I've had friends who have had pets. They are very attached to the pets, and the pets are like family memebers. One has to watch this movie with an open heart, or they will never understand the feelings of the people in this documentary. To some of these people, a pet is more of a friend than a human being will ever be, and there is some real truth behind that.
People might get different interpertations of what Morris is trying to show here. To me, 'Gates of Heaven' uses the pet cemetary business as a backdrop to show a much deeper aspects of human nature.
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Stupid people with zero business sense dictate to the camera about how to run a business and how we should care about their business. Read morePublished 5 months ago by TD
It was not at all what I expected. No stories of pets, just how this family started a business of graveyard for pets.Published 8 months ago by maggie
I bought this video because Roger Ebert said it was one of the best documentaries ever made. It was extremely boring.Published 10 months ago by Dianne Purdy
Interesting documentary done in interview style---Roger Ebert rated in as one of the 10 Best Movies Ever (???) No way!!!! Read morePublished 10 months ago by The Hikemaster
The late roger ebert described this film as one of the 10 best ever. Not sure why. It wasn't bad but not fabulous either. Read morePublished 11 months ago by Arizona1010