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There are films about loss and films and learning and "Heaven"
unites the two in a subtle but painful union. Maybe the distance
between these two opposites is not ever as measurable as when
united and Heaven may be the place.
Based upon a "screenplay" by Krystof Kieslowski and his writing
partner, Tom Twyker has created from these ashes a film
necessarily different but maybe closer to its source. In uniting
difficult partners - dead and living, criminal and police, innocent
and guilty, honest and dishonest, alive and dead - Twyker
manages a film so impossibly, absurdly beautiful it threatens to
cave in upon itself but never does. Rarely does a film so
provocative and yet gentle leave me so still and yet moved. I
haven't the desire nor passion to tear apart the odd feelings this
film left me with...except to say maybe this is heaven.
Very good. The acting was commendable, but I felt it was Tom Tykwer's
direction that held the movie together. At times I was thinking "Yes, this
scene is beautifully filmed, Kieslowski is indeed a genius" until I
remembered that he was dead and Tykwer was directing. The script was
excellent. There was a lot of subtlety in it - mixed emotions; characters
hiding things from each other and from the audience; a sense of uncertainty
throughout... there was some effective symbolism too, although the one part
I didn't quite understand was the physical transformation of the two
fugitives, which felt like it was supposed to mean something deeper but kind
of passed me by. The ending was good - managing to be typically different
from your average ending, while remaining completely clear and reinforcing
the meaning of the film in its entirety. After the film has finished you can
reflect on which of the characters went to heaven, and why, and whether they
went there together, and even at what point in the film their journey began,
I shall conclude by saying that my favourite scene of the film was a 5-10 second still shot of a beautifully serene landscape.
Tom Tykwer - the director's name is known international since "Run Lola Run". In old tradition his works' main themes are love relationships ("Der Krieger und die Kaiserin", "Deathly Maria"). Cate Blanchett, a young teacher, wants to prevent her students from drug dealers. As this mission fails she finds herself in a police office, accused for murder. This is where we begin. Fate, that she meets Giovanni Ribisi ("Saving Private Ryan")that day. The introverted young man is torn away from his earlier life, finding out that nothing else in his life is of any importance except her. Both actors are astonishing in their characters: Blanchett embodies a strong young woman whose life crumbles to pieces - in silent moments her despair seems to crawl from the screen into the auditorium... In the beginning Ribisi asks: Why is it not possible to fly higher with a helicopter? Ribisi wears his naivety like an raincoat through the whole movie - because all the things we really want are possible - even for a short time.
This rates amongst the top films I've seen so far this year. Tykwer had a lot to live up to with this movie, since it is based on a script by the late great Kieslowski. However, he has given us a beautifully realised film - his most mature to date. Cate Blanchett's performance is absolutely stunning, and if there is any justice in this world it deserves an Oscar (which means, of course, she won't get it!). Giovanni Ribisi is also superb. This is cinema of the highest calibre. Please go and see this film.
I didn't expect such a audacious, profoundly intended film when I went to watch "Heaven". I didn't like "Krieger & Kaiserin" because of its mysticism and exaggerated sentiments. But "Heaven" is much better. In part this is, of course, due to the intense and veracious play of Cate Blanchett. But not only. Already the start is completely innovative and even shocking: This green you see and say: 'But this is little TOO green...' and immediately you become aware that it is, in fact, a Simulation. And this topic - the falsehood of images - becomes a central one of this movie that remembers, in its landscape shootings, Bertolucci's "Stealing Beauty" and so many post-cards and movies and over-used airline-magazines... But it WINS those images again, conquers a new authenticity for them I didn't believe was possible. And, even this way, it doesn't work completely: only as a dream. And the whole movie, or everything that is central in it, remains a dream. The desperation that motivates the main character to commit her crime, is present in this movie in its negative - and the relationship of these two levels makes the movie's quality. Because they don't INFECT each other - the main sin of Kieslowski, the mysticist par excellence -, the whole thing remains PURE, and that it is a kind of answer to another main question that it makes: if purity is still possible.
Tom Tykwer's HEAVEN is a beautifully crafted film that is not afraid to
wear it's heart on it's sleeve. Based on a brilliantly conceived
by the late great director Kieslowski and his writing partner, it tells
story of a relentless woman bent on revenging her husband's death. This
thriller-esque revenge plot quickly evolves into a philosophical
about guilt and unconditional love, the latter theme being a favoured
subject of director Tykwer (though usually he likes to explore it through
his own scripts). Tykwer's breakthrough film "Lola Rennt" (Run, Lola,
though mostly remembered for it's fast-paced flashiness and unique style,
showed in it's rare quite moments the central characters discussing the
nature and strength of their binding love. His next film "Der Krieger und
die Kaiserin" (the immediate predecessor to "Heaven") was centered on the
unusual and seemingly doomed love of two outsiders.
"Heaven" is quite different from the vastly underrated "Der Krieger..." and the slightly overrated "Lola", though. It is Tykwer's first film not to be shot in his native tongue German. Taking place in Italy and revolving around a British teacher and an Italian policeman the dialogue is in almost equal parts Italian and English. But all linguistic matters aside, even more important is Tykwer's change of style. He courageously refrains from all the audio-visual gimmickry that made his previous efforts such unique experiences - and it pays. The calmness in editing, the unobtrusive score and the absence of excessive video-clip aesthetics give the audience the chance to breathe in the wonderful photography by Tykwer's longtime cinematographer Frank Griebe and the touching, vulnerable performances by the divine Cate Blanchett and the ever talented Giovanni Ribisi (their coupling in "Heaven" strangely echoes their appearances in Sam Raimi's "The Gift", in which Ribisi's character seems to be equally obsessed with Blanchett's character, who plays a widow in both films.)
"Heaven" will definitley not be everbody's cup of tea. Tykwer's unapologetic commitment to heartfelt emotions will not ring true for every viewer. Those who won't buy into the melodramatic parts of the film might call it borderline-sappy or worse. Others might regret that the film doesn't follow it's thriller narrative, dropping it instead for a love story. Also, though the script is carefully constructed, some viewers might have problems with their suspension of disbelief. Not everything happening could be called believable or even logical. And there is some dialogue, that's hard to swallow. So some of you might chuckle instead of shedding tears. But if you're like me you will not care about those storytelling technicalities. You will thank the director for being true and not holding back on emotions. You will enjoy the minimalist realism of Ribisi's acting. And you will hope for the next time you can revel in the pure bliss that is called Cate Blanchett.
Heaven is a chilling movie, full of suspense, that takes the viewer into the world of two young people on the run. It begins with a powerful dramatic punch that sets the course and tone of the rest of the movie. I must admit to liking subtitles, since I have hearing loss but I also find the Italian dialogue gives realism to the location. Cate Blanchett and Giovanni Ribisi are the unlikely couple, who find themselves fleeing the authorities. Ribisi plays an extraordinary role with total credibility, devising clever strategies to foil the police. Blanchett is a powerful presence who keeps the audience riveted to the screen, particularly in the opening scenes. The acting is superb by the supporting cast as well as the leading actors. The cinematography is excellent, and spans scenes of narrow streets, villages, barns and warehouses as well as the open countryside. I didn't find the movie slow and brooding, as some suggest. On the contrary, it seems to move quickly without flagging. There are some tender moments that are very moving. The ending is subdued but the overall impact makes it well worth viewing.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I am not a fan of fake computer visuals although they have gotten so
good they are almost hard to spot any more (hint no tree moves its
leaves that artistically in a breeze). This film uses them extensively.
The problem is they are too perfect and lack the flaws and clutter of
reality so after awhile you are subconsciously bothered by them. At
first they look fantastically good too good--they eventually become
annoying and distracting after you figure out they are animation.
Then there was a problem with the story. A school teacher makes a sophisticated bomb? Unlikely. Then a police interpreter stenographer arranges her escape from a maximum security jail. Pretty lax these Italian prisons.
Then the actors themselves...the female lead gets on your nerves after awhile---the male lead actor gets on your nerves right away. Oh by the way her name is Phillipa and the police interpreter is Filipo... Reminded me of the magic flute...
Dial a miss for this one--fake high tech visuals and all.
I will not bother with summarizing the movie. I challenge you to be surprised by the subject matter. I will however tell you it is an unthinkable premise, crafted poetically, seamlessly woven in a believable fabric. Blanchett and Ribisi effortlessly carry the movie, outshining the rest. That said, excellent performances delivered by all. While the movie plays out in a limited physical space, its realm of existence is anything but limited. It's almost like a play. The plot and mood absorb you gradually and seductively. This is my first review on IMDb after years of reading other reviews. And though this movie enjoys plenty of praise, here and elsewhere, I felt compelled to add mine, because it's so deserving of it. It never ceases to amaze me how surprised, and sometimes judgmental, some reviewers are at others. It seems people often forget we all look at life, and snapshots of it, through different eyes. Personally, I find that the reviews that hit home most with me, are those by people who seem to look through a similar lens. And mostly it ain't that hard to set them apart by reading between the lines. So if you seek a film with a story rather than just noise, and characters with depth and conviction, then this one is for you.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This film has an opener that is stunning: with minimal dialog, the
director visually kicks the viewer in the gut with one of the most
nail-biting sequences this viewer has seen for many a year as Philippa
(Cate Blanchett) plants a bomb designed to kill the man responsible for
the death of her own husband...
Which sets up another series of suspenseful situations where Philippa is assisted -- from the most unexpected quarter -- to escape from the police station where she is held for questioning about the bombing. And that, in turn, inevitably leads to the foregone conclusion as she and her helper, Filippo (Giovanni Ribisi) try to elude recapture for a long as possible. All to no avail, of course... But this is not a born again Bonnie and Clyde team, no way.
Filmed in and around Turin, the lyrical Italian countryside, and parts of Germany, there's a feast for the eyes as they run for cover to a friend's house set on top of a hill, only to find that their time is limited. Filippo has fallen in love with Philippa, but does she truly return that love? He is, after all, ready to grant Philippa her fondest wish; will she do the same for him? Just how far will she go for love...truly?
Is Cate Blanchett the best female actor in the world? It doesn't matter what she tackles, she pulls it off with an ability and talent that astounds: as Katharine Hepburn in The Aviator (2004), as Veronica Guerin (2003) and so many others, this actor, in my opinion, has no viable equal today. And, she is once again ably assisted by Ribisi who appeared with her once before in The Gift (2000).
And this is a slick and well backed production, with Sidney Pollack and Anthony Minghella among the producers.
But, it's not story for everyone. It's a real downer, in many ways, and a bit contrived to have a young translator on hand who conveniently falls for a suspected terrorist. Not impossible, I know, but highly unlikely. That aside, it all follows logically to the only conclusion possible.
Well worth the ninety-six minute screen time...
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