Most of us know who Charles Manson was. It's a name that, even for today's generation, brings to the surface any number of nasty or inquisitive imagery. Charles Manson. The family. Even those insidious-sounding words "Helter Skelter" still seem so strange and powerful. Equally contained in many wine or beer fuelled patio conversations are the women of "The Family" and their mindset during those dark times in the late sixties. But were those times truly as "dark" as one may at first think? Surely not, because without a sense of happiness and joy, how could such a hold on someone's mind really exist? This is where "And the Heavens Must Have Cried" steps into the picture. Although it does touch on what I wrote above, and those same words have a real place in the story being told, this film firmly sets itself up as a prelude to the madness that followed.
Essentially, this film written by Hannah Howzdy focuses on a fictitious record recorded by the women of the Manson group - before the murders began. Hell, maybe there really is a record of this nature out there, but honestly? The record itself doesn't even matter. Although this film uses a record to springboard the story - the recording itself has very little to do with the film's message. This is a film about manipulation - about an expert narcissist who uses raw emotions to control those around him. In this case, that emotion is love and adoration. "And the Heavens Must Have Cried" paints a brief yet complex picture of an unstable man using pure charisma to entice and control those around him. A line in the film, "You had to be there." rings in my ears as something someone completely under someone else's control might say. For a short film under fifteen minutes long, this one crams in a lot and packs a punch. The bottom line? This short film easily makes my recommended projects list. No question.
From a technical standpoint, director James Camali has spurred some fantastic performances that match up almost completely with the film's surreal, dreamlike (or perhaps nightmarish) atmosphere. This is a film about the women in Manson's life, and their steady downfall into what I can only believe was a lover's madness. The acting from everyone involved was splendid and really helped sell this unique look at Manson and his family. The idea to use an old recording as the MacGuffin for the film was a great idea - as sound and music have a way of taking us back in time. Then, consider that everything is all held together with a convincing yet surreal combination of camerawork and set dressing. It's easy to understand why this short film works so well.
Ultimately, "And the Heavens Must Have Cried" works because, essentially, this movie is a love story. Those that know the real story behind it will say it's a crazy, depraved kind of love story - but nonetheless, love plays a huge role. Maybe the most significant role of all. What would you do for someone you were insanely in love with? More to the point ... what would you do if the person you loved was also pretty much the new messiah? "And the Heavens Must Have Cried" takes a woman's perspective and is all the more powerful a film for doing so—a fresh insight into the Manson story - and one hundred percent worth watching.