Heaven & Earth
From The Dhamma Encyclopedia
Heaven & Earth is a 1993 film written and directed by Oliver Stone, and starring Tommy Lee Jones, Haing S. Ngor, Joan Chen and Hiep Thi Le. It is the third film in Stone's Vietnam War trilogy, which also included Platoon (1986) and Born on the Fourth of July (1989).
The film was based on the book When Heaven and Earth Changed Places, which Le Ly Hayslip (a Buddhist) wrote about her experiences during and after the Vietnam War.
Le Ly Hayslip is a girl growing up in a Vietnamese village. Her life changes when the communist insurgents show up in the village to fight the forces of first France and then the United States. During the American involvement, Le Ly is captured and tortured by South Vietnamese government troops, and later raped by the Viet Cong because they suspect that she is a traitor. After the rape, her relationship with her village is destroyed, and she and her family are forced to move.
Her family moves to Saigon and she is employed by a family there. The master of the household misleads her into believing that he genuinely cares for her, and she falls for him and gets pregnant by him. The master's wife becomes enraged and Le Ly's whole family is forced to move back to their former province. There she meets Steve Butler (Tommy Lee Jones), a Gunnery Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps. When she first meets him she is not interested in a boyfriend or marriage, having been through so much suffering. Steve falls for Le Ly and treats her very well, making a big difference in her life while in Vietnam.
The two leave Vietnam and move to the United States. Their life together begins well, but years of killing and life in the bush take their toll on Steve who becomes uncontrollably violent. The relationship falters, despite Le Ly's attempts to reconcile with Steve. After an impassioned plea by Le Ly for Steve to come back to her, Steve commits suicide. Many years following this tragic experience, Le Ly returns to Vietnam with her sons and shows them where she came from.
There are several scenes throughout the movie showing her connection to Buddhism, meeting with monks for guidance, and saying how bad events from her life must be from "her bad kamma in a past life."