At Play in the Fields of the Lord

Video offers a handy way to conquer the three hours and six minutes of this turgid adaptation of Peter Matthiessen’s 1965 novel: Watch it in three parts and turn it into your own homemade miniseries. Otherwise, At Play in the Fields of the Lord about missionaries (John Lithgow and Aidan Quinn) hustling the souls of Amazon Indians — and a half-breed American Indian (Tom Berenger) seeking his own identity among one tribe — might seem close to eternal.

Quinn provides an intense portrait of a man on the mat with his conscience. But Lithgow is overwrought, and Berenger, mostly naked throughout, seems to be suffering from fig-leaf shock. As the missionaries’ wives, Daryl Hannah gives a brilliant impression of someone in a curare coma, and Kathy Bates, playing a repressed zealot who eventually goes nuts, gives the kind of performance for which they should take back Oscars. C-

At Play in the Fields of the Lord
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