Team Film Experience isn't at Sundance this year, so instead we're going back through the years to discover and revisit some Sundance classics. Here is Glenn with the 1986 winner of the Special Jury Prize, Donna Deitch's Desert Hearts.
It was a happy accident that on a whim I picked the 1985 drama Desert Hearts to write about today given we’re still very much wrapped up in the warm bosom of Carol. I had not seen Donna Deitch’s film before and had no idea prior to sitting down to watch it that it shared so much in common with Carol, 30 years its senior. I was aware of course that it was a lesbian romance, and I was also aware that the film is (famously) regarded as the first film to allow a lesbian romance to end without tragedy. Still, there were moments where beat-for-beat the films are almost identical. I would be interested to read the novels side by side and see if they’re as alike as their adaptations.
Adapted from Jane Rule’s novel Desert of the Heart, this Sundance Special Jury Prize winner is also set in the 1950s with two women (Helen Shaver and Independent Spirit Award nominee Patricia Charbonneau) of a significant age difference, the eldest of whom is currently in the process of a divorce, who come together much to the surprise of at least one of the pair – although this time it is the younger of the two who finds herself attempting to coax the older woman out from behind her guard. Most striking is how both end not just on similarly optimistic notes, but with almost identical build. Of course, Desert Hearts differs in the way its romance blossoms under the heat of a Reno sun, Shaver’s impractical clothing choices and sever hairstyle slowly becoming more free and loose as her worldview expands thanks to the frank openness of Charbonneau’s younger casino floor-girl a neat costume-oriented touch among the film's mise-en-scene.