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This beautiful, brave, honest movie will be difficult for many people to enter because the heroine, played by Cate Blanchett, makes SUCH a bad mistake at the beginning of the movie that she is unlikely to ever know happiness. A tight, disciplined script, superbly acted, sublimely shot. It makes me want to move to Italy and start a doomed relationship. Actually, why bother? I can do that right here in the drizzly logging town where I live. "Heaven" worked for me on every level. Simply delicious.
Director Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run) brings to life the late Krzysztof
Kieslowski's (The Decalogue Series) final script in this intense and
romantic gem of a film. The inspired and perfect cinematic marriage has the
Kieslowski poetic arthouse factor and the energy and feel of Tykwer's other
work (The Princess and the Warrior). Their parallel right vs. wrong drive
for morality and passion for intelligent filmmaking make this less of a
strange collaboration than the Spielberg/Kubrick trainwreck A.I. that it is
being compared to.
Cate Blanchett and Giovani Ribisi give powerful performances as doomed lovers on the lam after a chance meeting and subsequent sudden journey together. Blanchett's physical appearance change in the movie is the most striking, as she truly seems to do whatever the role requires of her (this time shaving her head) without thought to her personal image. The couple's androgynist look is more symbolic than anything. It is, in fact, their best performances to date. Ribisi is especially impressive in handling his mostly-Italian dialogue. The two interact with each other on a much deeper lever than a traditional movie would require. They go through the movie without any big, cheesy love scenes, but one beautiful symbolic moment towards the end of the film. It might be hard to buy into for some, but for those that believe that love can come between two people in very different and sudden ways, than it actually is quite romantic after all.
This movie will bother most traditional audiences. There's probably not enough movement for action fans, not enough Hollywood romance for the saps, and too much symbolism for the, well, not so bright. The ending will disturb most of the general public as well, as it does not have the traditional spell-it-out conclusion that people have come to expect. It could be said that imagination is to be used on the conclusion, but there were supposed to be two sequels to fill out the story, Hell and Purgatory, which may or may not see the light of day due to Kieslowski's sudden passing before their completion. Either way, it stands on its own as a powerful piece of work. It's a complicated, yet simple film all at the same time. The themes are universal, but their execution is divine.
So, I saw this film 3 or 4 weeks ago and I can't stop thinking about it. Yes, I'm an avid fan of Kieslowski, Blanchett, and Tykwer...so yes it was written in the stars I would at least enjoy this film a little bit. The word "Heaven" itself is as beautiful as the film. From the opening shot your mind wonders what you are watching..."What is this image that is developing in front of me?" To the last shot that is still playing in my mind. Everything comes full circle in the last scene. How can such a deliberate paces film hold tension for so long? No idea, but I put my faith in these filmmakers. I do wish that Kieslowski were around to be directly involved in the making of this film, the first of a possible trilogy. His colors trilogy didn't make a dent in U.S. box office, so I don't see why they wouldn't make the other two as well. Kieslowski once said he would set "Hell" in L.A. Go for it!
"Heaven" opens with a scene that you may not recognize as flash-forward
until much, much later. You may even be walking home before you manage to
fit it to the only place it can fit in the film's otherwise linear
progression. The camera pans over a computer generated landscape, while one
voice coaches another, Follow the contours, not too high, never too high.
"Helicopter" is one of the very last words uttered before we cut to events
so disturbingly compelling that we forget the opening.
Like every Kieslowski film(waste no time on Tykwer except to admit he didn't ruin it, that this one feels Kieslowski), "Heaven" is fable, even parable. First conundrum: Philippa didn't intend to kill the innocent yet caused them to die. Does responsibility equal guilt? How does it differ from guilt? Her remorse is severe. Does remorse absolve guilt or responsibility, both or either? Second conundrum: Killing a drug lord, no matter how many lives it saves, is no less a sin than killing a saint, a child, a bystander. Philippa's intended crime is premeditated, even savored, so conceivably, in Catholicism's definition of mortal sin, killing him would have been more damning than accidentally killing four. What does this do to the first conundrum? Eventually Kieslowski/Tykwer shaves Philippa's head, making her look like Dreyer's or Bresson's Jeanne d'Arc. A soldier's a killer. A holy soldier's a holy killer, a holy sinner. Similar conundrums apply to Filippo, the carabinieri who, at least for a time, saves her, as well as to his father and Philippa's woman friend. Filippo's much more important than I've left myself time for here. The head-shavings make the hunted lovers, already twins in holy sin, visually twins.
Finally the camera soars. Escape? Suicide? Lovers' pact. Judgement? Even the film's and script's title is no sure clue.
Touchpoints for "Heaven," besides obviously all of Kieslowski? Just about anything by Flannery O'Connor, master of holy sinners. And Santosh Sivan's 1999 "The Terrorist." By all means, see "The Terrorist," before somebody locks it away to save us.
Many people here have said that the film dies during the second half. Some
others have said that the characters do not advance during the second
Some others claimed that the resemblance of the names is
The truth is that Kieslowski is in my humble opinion a genious. What is love if it is not the union of two people? Kieslowski shows a profound religiousness in his filmography. Take that into account and then take into account what the marriage ceremony says about the two bodies that become one. (It says so in greek anyways)
Why am I saying all this? Because in the second part of the film we are witnessing the extraordinary union of Filippo and Philippa. They look alike, they communicate without talking, only briefly, their shadowy shiloueetes merge in the scene under the tree. They are ONE.
What is the ending? They go to heaven. Is that a good thing for them? It is left for the viewer to judge.
Tykwer did a wonderful job and both actors were very good. Kieslowski once more works miracles.
At least we have the inspiring covert theme that the maestro
K.Kieslowski gave us in the handful of masterpieces he created, now in
Tom Tykwer is to be thanked for that. While his direction of this complex, morally challenging film doesn't have the rich, visually telling contrasts of dark and light of the maestro, it remains true to the heart of the matter.
Phillipa (brilliantly portrayed by Cate Blanchett) isn't a criminal, although she perpetrates a couple of horrendous acts. Her intended victim is an affluent drug dealer, protected by government officials. He's responsible for her husband's death and drug luring of children and is deliberately shot by her, only after a bomb she planted, meant for the dealer, inadverently kills four innocent victims.
Is this forgiveable? Not in the legal sense...and she's willing to take the consequences. Her horror and remorse at the accidental killings moves a young policeman to a passionate identification with her...to the point of putting his own life on the line by helping her escape...and then going with her.
What we're lead to feel and understand in a covert way is that responsibility is more profound than legal limits. Transcendence of worldly affairs...especially when the institutions of society are corrupt...brings a person of substance to a choice, an existential choice that can best be resolved through conscience and love. In this case, the lovers chose their own fate.
Did anyone realize how silly the first names of the principal characters in
"Heaven" sound when put together? Well that may be about the only humor
coming from this starkly filmed story of a woman, Phillippa (Cate Blanchett)
whose misplaced bomb doesn't kill the suave Turin drug czar whom she blames
for her husband's OD death. Who does get killed are a father and his two
little kids and a cleaning lady.
Having phoned in a confession to what turns out to be a bunch of carabinieri somewhat below the ethical and legal standards of their famous force, Philippa is arrested and interrogated. An Englishwoman teaching in Italy, she understands but refuses to answer in Italian.
Lucky for the interrogators a youthful new recruit, Filippo (Giovanni Ribisi of "Boiler Room" fame), son of a high-ranking carabinieri officer, is bi-lingual and he undertakes first to translate, then to facilitate the beautiful Philippa's escape from a police force that he senses but doesn't know has no intention of letting their prisoner get to a courtroom.
The developing love story only makes sense if you accept that very young police officers can fall almost instantly in love with a beautiful murderess during an interrogation. Happens every day.
What makes this film gripping is the incredible Cate Blanchett whose emotional depth makes her - and her motivation for her homicidal act - believable. Ribisi is very good too but it's Blanchett's film start to finish.
The enigmatic ending leaves viewers who care about the story with questions. Should we view sympathetically a person who wanted to smash a drug ring by taking out the honcho by explosives? Can we say "mistakes will happen" after briefly seeing flesh and blood innocent people about to be eviscerated by a bomb? Why does the confused killer have to be so stunningly gorgeous (and talented)? I don't know.
What I do know is that an incredible tie-in marketing opportunity was lost here. Why didn't the producers get a laundry detergent company to fork up big bucks (or EUROS) for product placement in the film? Blanchett's white t-shirt, worn when arrested and still on at the end of the film, remains blindingly white without the slightest spot despite a week and more of incarceration, flight and urban and rural adventures. I'd buy that stuff!!!
For the film, 7/10, for Cate Blanchett 10/10.
I was drawn to see "Heaven" while in Los Angeles because of the cast. Giovanni Ribisi and Cate Blanchett happen to be my favorite actor and actress. The material didn't matter so much, I just wanted to see their work - but when the film opened, I could tell I was in for a treat. It was a full, beautifully crafted story, and the acting all around is just heartfelt and exquisite. I had seen the director's previous work and also liked that - but this film has a life all it's own. With so many movies being released, I am so thankful a gem like this is among them.
I have to admit, I like Kieslowski better since he's dead. This one is just
as beautiful as any Kieslowski, but Tykwer - who manages a much wider range
of style than the older film maker - gives his direction a freshness which
is lacking from Kieslowski's somewhat conventional idea of beauty.
The film is dense and calm, artful and exciting at once. It is rewarding to watch it as a deeply religious movie: The young police officer who helps the hapless assassin embodies her personal relation to god - her angel, actually. He was born on the day of her first communion, he bears almost the same name, and by the end of the film, the two even start to look the same. Thus, the film is not about the risks of crime fighting on your own account, but about guilt and redemption.
I'm not religious, but I found that very touching.
Some people argue that Cate Blanchett is too static, and thus a poor
actress. To those people I stress that they watch all of her films - from
her early Australian films to The Gift, Bandits and Lord of the Rings.
Blanchett would have to be one of the most versatile actors in the
international film industry.
In my opinion, it is her 'static' performance which adds life and humanity to her character in this film. The film may be disappointing, considering that it was crafted by a modern master (Tykwer).However, The film deals with some very tough, uncomfortable issues- which prove challenging for the best of filmakers.
This film is certainly not in everyone's taste, however, both lead performances are brutally honest...
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