An almost accidental romance is kindled between a German woman in her mid-sixties and a Moroccan migrant worker around twenty-five years younger. They abruptly decide to marry, appalling everyone around them.
Rainer Werner Fassbinder
El Hedi ben Salem,
Cary Scott is a widow with two grown children. She's been leading a quiet life since her husband died, socializing with a small circle of friends. Her children no longer live with her full-time but come home every weekend. She's not unhappy but also doesn't realize how bored she is. Her friend Sara Warren encourages her to get a television set to keep her company but she doesn't want that either. She develops a friendship with Ron Kirby who owns his own nursery and comes every spring and fall to trim her trees. Ron is much younger than Cary and their friendship soon turns to love. Her circle of friends are surprised that she is seeing such a younger man and she might be prepared to overlook that - Ron certainly doesn't care about the differences in their ages - but when her son and daughter vehemently object, she decides to sacrifice her own feelings for their happiness. Over time however, she realizes that her children will be spending less and less time with her as they pursue their...Written by
The haunting music used prominently in the credits and throughout the film in piano and orchestral arrangement is Liszt's Consolation #3 in D flat major. See more »
Cary reads two quotations from the same page in Walden: "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation" and "If a man does not keep pace with his companions..." Those two quotations are from opposite ends of the book, the first and last chapters, respectively. See more »
"All That Heaven Allows" is one of Douglas Sirk's most popular and influential films. It's not hard to see why. The central theme is one that will always be relevant, no matter what the decade. There will always be many who will resonate to the quest for freedom when finding their own lives constrictive and dissatisfying. Throughout time society's pressure to conform has caused much emotional upheaval in many a life, but the 1950's seems to have been a decade of a particularly ruthless conservatism. This social climate produced the McCarthy witch hunts, as well as some of Hollywoods finest movies, finally being avenged by the birth of rock 'n roll.
The theme of the constraints of society and the suffering it causes is naturally one that is particularly close to gay people. Two gay film makers were so affected by "All That Heaven Allows" that they remade it with their own particular perspectives. Fassbinder increases the age difference between the older woman and her younger lover and makes things even more extreme by giving them vastly different cultural and social backgrounds. Todd Haynes manages to pull of the miraculous feat of recreating the 1950's Sirk style and yet with contemporary sensibilities. "Fear Eats the Soul" and "Far From Heaven" stand on their own in their excellence, while both acknowledging the huge influence Sirk and "All That Heaven Allows" had upon them.
"All that Heaven Allows" was made the very same year as "Rebel Without a Cause" The rebellion in question in "Rebel without a Cause" is that of youth with all its pain, not to mention its glamour embodied by luminaries James Dean and Natalie Wood. Nicholas Ray created a truly iconic film of teenage rebellion against repressive parents and society as a whole. Sirk's film is in a way more daring. Despite the glossy sheen in which he has wrapped this work, the story is in fact the rebellion of a widow against her repressive children and the society to which she belongs. It makes a perfect companion piece to Sirk's "There's Always Tomorrow" which essays the unhappiness of a man (Fred Macmurray), who despite having achieved all society has expected of him, finds his life meaningless. There too his children are depicted as egoistic, uncaring and ungrateful. Both films are a devastating attack on family life and the social mores of the 50's. Sadly "There's Always Tomorrow" remains Sirk's most underrated and unseen film.
As a young man, Sirk read Thoreau and was enthralled. He insisted on including a scene in which "Walden" is read and quoted in "All That Heaven Allows". Thoreau's message " If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer" is central to the movie and to Sirk's work as a whole.
Emerson's "to thine own self be true" is also quoted in the movie and has a particular poignancy as far as Sirk's career goes. A gifted intellectual with a sense of cinema shared by few, Sirk should surely have been destined to make greater films. When he signed to Universal thereby agreeing to make scripts that often bordered on the insulting, it could have been a case of selling out. The miracle of Sirk's work is that through it all, poor scripts and often second rate actors, he was always true to himself in expressing his views, while toeing the studio line and in fact making them a lot of money. Within the soppy, gorgeously presented melodramas, his cutting criticism of American society is always present. Like Milos Forman and Fritz Lang, the eye of the foreigner often has a distinct clarity and objectivity.
The leads in "All that Heaven Allows" were taken straight from Sirk's wildly successful "Magnificent Obsession". Jane Wyman gives an outstanding performance compared to "Obesession", while Hudson now a star, fails to fulfill the promise he shows in "Obsession". Here already his limitations are pretty evident. While seldom really awful, he would be seldom be really good. Agnes Moorehead again gives terrific support and again the legendary cameraman Russell Metty works his magic.
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