Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Places in the Heart

How many movies do you think have been made since Al Jolson’s “The Jazz Singer” in 1927, which by the way was the first talking film? 5,000? 10,000? 20,000? Perhaps no one has an exact count. But I would put the number between 30,000 – 40,000 movies. So, would you agree, that’s a lot of films?

It would be very easy to overlook movies that we should not forget. One of these films is from 1984, “Places in the Heart”. Again, this is another example of the type of movies that Christians should be making. An exceptional film of rare beauty, simplify and grace, “Places in the Heart” weaves Christian themes into a masterpiece that tells all of us that God’s love and forgiveness is available to all who accept it, both good and evil, black or white, and young or old.

The movie will undoubtedly surprise you, especially the ending. There is more going on than what’s occurring on the surface. Could “Places in the Heart” be a metaphor for something else? But what? The screenplay is based on writer/director Robert Benson’s childhood memories of growing up in Waxahachie, Texas during the depression era of the 1930s. Benson is successful in taking us on a journey to experience a different time, place and people. It is a rare look at pure Americana. The filmmakers are magnificent at recreating an authentic, historical representation of Texas during the depression. I’ve seen a lot of movies that have attempted this but, quite frankly, look fake. “Places in the Heart” is the real deal.

The general story goes something like this. Edna Spalding portrayed by Sally Field is struggling to save her home after her husband is accidently killed. Along the way, she must overcome hardships and struggles in bringing in the first cotton harvest of the season. She forms a surrogate family, including Mr. Will (John Malkovich), a blind boarder who sees what others cannot see, and Moze (Danny Glover) an African-American sharecropper whose wisdom helps Edna save the farm.

There is also a subplot involving an adulterous triangle, which threatens to destroy two marriages. Together our characters face bigotry and racial hatred and must overcome their fears, survive life’s hardships and learn to forgive.

“Places in the Heart” was nominated for five Academy Awards and took home two Oscars. Sally Field won Best Actress, and Robert Benson won for Best Original Screenplay. Some of you may find this film a bit slow by today’s standards. It’s unquestionably a character study. And, sure, the storyline is a little simplistic. But it is the end of the film that makes the journey worth the effort. It’s at this point that you realize why these characters went through the hardships they had to endure. You see their reward and the simplicity of abiding love.

Some critics claim the overall narrative of the film does not support such a powerful and compelling conclusion. They are absolutely mistaken. They fail to understand that life isn’t always about huge events. But it’s the small things in everyday life that define us.

If you haven’t seen “Places in the Heart, or like me you haven’t seen it in 20 years, it’s definitely worth a look. It’s available on DVD. On most sites you can pick it up for less than $10. If you want to experience a different time, place and people, I can’t think of a better journey than “Places in the Heart”.

Here’s a few questions you might want to think about as you view the film:

1. Why does Edna help Moze after he is caught stealing?
2. What does the banker represent?
3. Life is often unpredictable. Why do we have to endure hardships and struggles?
4. What do our main characters need? (Edna, Moze and Will)
5. Why does Margaret forgive Wayne?
6. Does Violet reject God’s grace at the end of the film?
7. Is the Kingdom of God open to everyone?
8. What does the final scene represent?
9. What enables our characters to heal?
10. How do we define family?

1 comment:

  1. I liked the movie a lot, but I was confused by the ending. It took a little explaining to get it eventually. I definitely have thought about the movie more in the last couple weeks. I do want to watch at again in the future. By the way!!!! "The Book of Eli" was the best redemptive film I've seen in years!