Heaven’s Gate is an interesting film to say the least, for a number of reasons. This film differs greatly from the plethora of other 70’s auteur films we have showcased. Myth paradoxically becomes reality, and the cinematic experience is challenged by the spatial temporality of the pace of the film, and consequently its ability to connect and establish relationships with the characters within.
This film is laden with stunningly beautiful cinematography, but this emphasis on the visual has the affect of transforming the narrative into a set of tropes…the over-extended scenes are worthwhile in terms of their visual content and composition (for example the Harvard square scene) but fail to add anything more. The length of such scenes consequently alienate the audience because there is an inability to connect to the characters or the narrative. One could liken these cinematographic traits and shots to the stylistic direction of Terrence Malick, but unlike Malick, the length and style does not aid, but rather it detracts from the film as a whole. In Heaven’s Gate both the visual and the narrative structure of the plot can be separated into the foreground and background of the character’s emotions; in reference to Robin Wood’s analytical passage in ‘Hollywood from Vietnam to Reagan…and Beyond’ it is like ‘watching a painter create a large fresco..the fresco, if the wall was extended could theoretically continue indefinitely.’ In this way, Heaven’s Gate challenges spatial temporality, as every moment within the film reverberates, especially in regards to the politics and myths of the American West. This film allows for conceptual expectations, but does not fully satisfy the criteria to do so, as the diagetic temporality is paradoxically very linear. In the end, the structure of the film alters the audience’s traditional perception of history, as each scene and shot ceases to be a linear succession and instead becomes a transitional series of moments that have been super-imposed one on top of the other.