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Gates of Heaven DVD
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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


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