Gates of Heaven NR CC

Amazon Instant Video

(36) IMDb 7.5/10

Errol Morris' first documentary examines the devotions, emotions and at times, obsessions exhibited by animal lovers when a pet cemetery is moved to a new location.

Starring:
Lucille Billingsly, Zella Graham
Runtime:
1 hour 23 minutes

Gates of Heaven

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Product Details

Genres Documentary
Director Errol Morris
Starring Lucille Billingsly, Zella Graham
Supporting actors Cal Harberts, Dan Harberts, Phil Harberts, Scottie Harberts, Mike Koewler, Floyd McClure, Ed Quye, Florence Rasmussen
Studio IFC Film
MPAA rating NR (Not Rated)
Captions and subtitles English Details
Rental rights 48 hour viewing period. Details
Purchase rights Stream instantly and download to 2 locations Details
Format Amazon Instant Video (streaming online video and digital download)

Other Formats

Customer Reviews

Rather, it is about human beings, the passions we have, and how we achieve them in this life.
timmy
Because the points are so subtle and the layers are so seemingly bottomless, this is the most intellectually challenging film I've seen.
A fellow with a keyboard
You could say, "Well, it's these people he finds," and you'd be right but not really hitting it on the head.
Nathan Jongewaard

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

36 of 42 people found the following review helpful By D. W WISELY on July 24, 2005
Format: DVD
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 By timmy on August 23, 2003
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 By Nathan Jongewaard on 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 By McGillicutty on 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.
Read more ›
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Paul who reviewed this on 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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