Heaven and Earth Magic (1962) Poster

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Hypnotic and magical.
SDY3 February 1999
I first saw this at a Harry Smith tribute in '93 at the Naropa Institute. I was blown away. This film is avant-guarde. The animation is mind boggling and the use of sound is unforgettable. You will find yourself looking at the world in a very different way after this film. It's very much like Paradjanov in the use of symbols and allegory. Watching Heaven & Earth is like being exposed to a magical universe. A world you've forgotten that you actually already know.
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Glad at least some people can still enjoy this.
Boba_Fett113819 July 2011
Nothing wrong with surrealistic animations and I can actually enjoy some of them from time to time but this movie was just too much. It didn't made sense in any way and I had no idea what was going on all or what the movie was trying to achieve and say.

There is absolutely no story in this. Just a bunch of random animations wobbling on the screen. And it's all quite abstract as well. Sizes and motions are all out of this world, so most of the time you really have no idea what you are watching. Stuff that happens just make no sense but all the worse; it doesn't even seem to have a point.

What was Harry Smith trying to tell with this movie or what was he trying to achieve with his animations? To me it probably will always remain a mystery, though some people still seem to be able to appreciate his work and especially this movie in particular. Glad some people still get something out of this movie. What's art to some is absolute rubbish to some others I guess.

Perhaps I could had still taken the movie if it was much shorter. An hour is just far too long for an pretentious, artistic, animated movie, in which absolutely happens story- or entertaining-wise. Yes, perhaps some good humor could had still made this movie somewhat more watchable as well but this totally isn't the angle this movie was going for.

The animations themselves also aren't that impressive to look at but I can still see how its style influenced other later film-makers and animators. However that still doesn't make this a good or interesting movie to watch. Not for me at least.


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Might best be "understood" with the aid of some mind altering substance
Klaus Ming10 September 2013
US 66m, B&W Director: Harry Everett Smith

Heaven and Earth Magic is a surreal film fantasy using collage animation with late 19th century graphic images which are reminiscent of Terry Gilliam's animation work with Monty Python. Lacking any semblance of a plot, logic or narrative direction, Heaven and Earth Magic apparently follows the journey of a woman with a toothache to heaven and back, but not after the loss of a watermelon. The film's dreamlike action employs a series of related images and motifs related to death, including skeletal figures of humans and other animals. Visually interesting, for about fifteen minutes, I get the feeling that Heaven and Earth Magic might best be "understood" with the aid of some mind altering substance (Klaus Ming July 2013).
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spectacularly surreal, but unfortunately tedious
framptonhollis26 March 2017
Over "Heaven and Earth Magic"'s brief 66 minute long runtime, my personal score for the film went from a 9 to an 8 to a 7 to a 6. This unfortunate spiral downwards is due to its painstaking tediousness. While this film is a unique, fascinating, and surreal cinematic voyage that takes the viewer to a magical world unlike any other, it simply over welcomes its stay. This would be an amazing short film, but instead Harry Smith felt the need to drag it on and on despite how uneventful it was. Also, I had a real petpeeve with the amount of dropping water in this movie. My bathroom sink has been acting up lately and will not stop dropping. Drip-drop, drip-drop. It makes me want to flee the country, and this movie had to inject itself with that annoying noise and visual constantly. By the end, I was shaking with anger the second that visual/audio combo ungraceful exposed itself upon my screen.

You know what, this little experiment actually doesn't even deserve a 6/10. I'm bringing the score down to a 5. This film may be highly influential and unique, but it's damn annoying and tedious after a while, despite its runtime being barely over an hour.
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Heaven and Earth Magic
Jackson Booth-Millard10 February 2017
Warning: Spoilers
I found this film in the book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, naturally I know I am going to try to watch every film listed in this book, with this one I didn't know what to expect, and by the end of it, I didn't know what to think. From visual artist and experimental filmmaker Harry Everett Smith, this black-and-white film appears to have no narrative, no storyline, no plot and no characters, it is simply made up of photograph cut-ups animated together to create moving creatures and objects to make random events. However, Smith explained the title and what is supposed to be going on, which if you really focus does make some sort of sense. It is supposed to be depicting a woman who has a severe toothache, caused by a watermelon, she goes to the dentist, but is taken to heaven. In this heavenly land she experiences various things, but then she eventually returns to Earth, after being eaten by Max Müller on the day the Great Sewer of London was dedicated by Edward VII. This is explanation given, you can certainly"understand" if you read that stuff beforehand, you can see the images of a dentists's chair, a watermelon many times, and going upwards and downwards to places, but otherwise, this film is pretty indescribable. It appears to be like a bizarre dream someone is having, where random bodies and objects are brought together, with the sounds of various things (clocks chiming, bells tolling, animal noises, gunfire, water, popping, chattering, laughing). There is almost no point trying to make any sense of what is going on, but you have to remember this is an artistic piece, so if you just let yourself go and embrace the madness, it is actually an interesting watch, a strange but worthwhile experimental avant garde abstract animation. Good!
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using a baby as tennis ball
mrdonleone20 December 2009
I had heard many great things about Harry Smith's Heaven and Earth Magic, but I never saw it. to be correct, I actually did saw a few parts of it, but I never liked it. it has got that kind of style that needs to be appreciated, and because I do not get very much excited by moving paintings, the works of Mister Smith never appealed to me. let's be honest if we can: this is no ordinary movie, but it's no animation film either. it's something in between, something that only exists in it's sole existence. having said that, I hope it's clear I don't like Heaven and Earth Magic. it's too strange for me. there seems to be no story whatsoever, except for a collection of rather sketches than story lines. I love the works of Stan Brakhage, even though they have no storyline neither. but Brakhage's movies are to be seen as random art, Harry Smith's movies however have nothing to do with art. they tell us nothing. but I believe you can give anything a reason of existence, even the films made by Harry Smith (not to be confused with Jack Smith, the godfather of the New York underground experimental gay cinema). Here, you can see many things relate to life and death, hence the strange title. Smith plays with confusion and depth, thereby creating original novelties on the screen. mutilation becomes art, and art becomes reformed, destroying the original being and furthermore changing in another lifestyle. however,if you have never seen a Harry Smith film, these words can't mean anything for you. Harry Smith needs to be viewed many times, his creations and demolition are too strange to understand with a first viewing. I'm a big fan of experimental short films with no sound, but this is silly. the only sound we hear, are coming from animals and things that distract us. Harry Smith uses these sounds to make his collage of life even more absurd. at a certain point, he uses a machine to play tennis with a baby as tennis ball. original, yes, but do we want to see this? no. it's quite boring, playing with life and death in a fictional concept. one thing is sure, of course, once you've seen this movie, you will never forget it.
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