At Play In The Fields Of The Lord Review

At Play In The Fields Of The Lord
Martin and Hazel Quarrier are small-town fundamentalist missionaries sent to the jungles of South America to convert the Indians.

by Angie Errigo |
Published on
Release Date:

01 Jan 1991

Running Time:

180 minutes



Original Title:

At Play In The Fields Of The Lord

Heavy-hitting South American Hector Babenco was theoretically better placed than many to deliver what was intended as a major geo-political statement for the 90s. Tortuously adapted from Peter Matthiessen’s novel about the evil a team of missionaries, an adventurer and land despoilers bring to an Amazonian tribe, this is, after all, one of those legendary projects kicked around for years with names like John Huston, Marlon Brando and Milos Forman attached to it at various stages.

But despite the sincere agenda — and some awe-inspiring photography of the rain forest — this comes out bearing an unfortunately ludicrous resemblance to those old capers where the hard drinking, macho bwana swaggered about the jungle until a blonde eyeful paddled up in the 5.17 dugout from Mataruba. Tom Berenger and Tom Waits are the boozing, reckless cargo pilots waylaid in an Amazonian outpost, where Berenger’s Lewis Moon, half-Cheyenne and wholly alienated, flips out and goes native in a Dances With Tarantulas kind of way.

For the next two and a half hours he bravely occupies the screen dressed only in a feather, two arm bands and a bit of henna on his tribal basin ‘do. Meanwhile, overbearing John Lithgow and dedicated Aidan Quinn tote their respectively unlikely wives Daryl Hannah and Kathy Bates along with the word of Jesus to the “savages”.

The Niaruna people are naked, simple and in harmony with the environment. They are also savvy enough to be hostile to the Yanquis, with tragic justification.

the Amazonian catastrophe is not best served by three hours of tedium driving home what a wiser Hispanic Catholic priest observes en passant to the Protestant zealots: “Who knows what we might not learn from the Indians if we were not so busy teaching the
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