Sunday, January 10, 2010

Left Field Cinema: Michael Cimino's Heaven's Gate (1978)

Misunderstood Modern Cinema: Heaven's Gate
by Mike Dawson
Left Field Cinema

Heaven’s Gate is a western, however it is unlike any other western you’re ever likely to see. Based on historical events from 1890 Wyoming, a powerful group of land owners known as the association are in the midst of conflict with European immigrants who are trying to forge a life on the American frontier. The judicial system favours the immigrants, and the land owners decide that they must bypass the law in order to rid themselves of these interlopers. Their extreme solution is to create a death list with one-hundred and twenty-five names on it, and then hire a small army of bounty hunters and mercenaries to hunt down every man and woman on the list and kill them. Sheriff James Averill played by Kris Kristofferson comes to town and finds violence on the streets and murder brewing amongst civil unrest, he visits with his prostitute girlfriend Ella Watson played by a very young Isabelle Huppert; his former university friend from Harvard - Billy played by the incredible John Hurt; and a bar owner and prospector John played by Jeff Bridges. Slowly Averill gets a picture of the violently volatile situation and wants to convince Ella to leave before the situation explodes, but Ella is content with her life, she runs a successful brothel, and has everything she could want where she is. Averill isn’t the only one who wants Ella to leave, hired gun Nathan played by Christopher Walken wants to marry Ella and start a life together away from her prostitute occupation. A love triangle is formed with both men wanting the same thing, but neither of them may achieve their goal in the end as it comes to light that Ella’s name is also on the death list and the illegal army begin their march towards the town to kill the majority of the inhabitants.

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