Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Shakers: Hands to Work, Hearts to God

In the 19th Century, the Shakers sought to create a Utopian religious community, devoid of sex and founded on hard work and devotion to God. Although their communities eventually dissolved due to lack of procreation and conversions, the members did seek what they sought to achieve, and their legacy in architecture and furniture design lives on to this very day. "The Shakers: Hands to Work, Hearts to God" seems like an odd choice for a sophomore film from master documentarian Ken Burns but as expected, he handles his subject with great reverence and craft and tells their story with superior skill. Made in 1984, Burns interviews the few remaining Shakers in a New England community, all telling of the hardships that came with territory but none regretting their decision. And although the story of the religious sect does wear slightly thin, even at an hour's running length, there are still many historical morsels to be found in this story.