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‘Heaven’ 2007/03/26

Posted by Daddy Dave in Movies, Reviews.

At the laptop on the kitchen table, I stopped for a break from work. I decided to make some fresh coffee and while I waited, I switched on the TV and flicked through the channels. A film was just starting, and the way it was filmed caught and held my attention.

I watched as I made the coffee; it looked interesting. It seemed Italian, but where in Italy? Then there was Cate Blanchett. Yes, Cate Blanchett — in an Italian movie. Cate Blanchett in an Italian movie talking Italian. No — surely not. It must be someone who looks an awful lot like Cate Blanchett… but then again, Cate Blanchett is singular-looking; you just don’t get a lot of people looking like Cate Blanchett, if you see what I mean. I have been puzzled by Blanchett before (see ‘Coffee and Cigarettes’ Fri, 20th Aug 2004)

Then the explosion. By now I am sipping coffee and involved in the film — the plot, the scenery, where in Italy? Is it Cate Blanchett? Is it going to be a prison movie? Is it going to be a Court Room movie? Where does she fit in? Is it the mafia? Why is it called ‘Heaven’?

‘Phillipa’ (Blanchett’s character) clearly intended to blow up a man in an office, she even managed to get the secretary out of the way, so she was trying to be specific — but the cleaner came and in the end the guy got away and ‘Phillipa’ instead blew up a Dad and his two young daughters along with the cleaner. How would she deal with that? Would she try to get the man again? What did this man do?

Anyway, the film was worth watching, not because it was a fast-paced thriller, but because it was a slow-paced thriller.

The unlikely male romantic action hero lead was Giovanni Ribisi as ‘Filipo’. But as the film progressed, it became ever clearer that this character was exactly right. ‘Phillipa’ and ‘Filipo’ begin to merge, dressing alike and by the end, with their shaven heads it was difficult to figure out who was who.

The muddying continued in more ways than visual; they were acting illegally yet possibly rightly, they did bad things, but for a good cause. They were the good guys, somehow.

The policeman, the teacher against the drug traffickers and the corrupt carabinieri. The senior policeman role versus the role of a father. The teacher and saviour of children versus the killer of children. The simulated helicopter take-off at the start versus the real helicopter take-off at the end.

This film is ostensibly light-weight but beautifully photographed, but there are too many complex issues, mixed feelings, raised questions and vying loyalties to be dismissed as light-weight.

A good gauge would be the after-taste, and this film does have legs in that department; in the memory, it’s beautiful cinematography, wonderful lighting, great scenery and slow pacing merges into a syrupy memory that adds a dream-like dimension to the whole.

Later, in discussing the topics raised, and trying to describe the emotions and plot convolutions, the film reveals how well it sets and embeds itself in the back of the mind, perhaps the slow pacing ensures the details are burned into the memory better than a faster, more Hollywood movie with more popular teen-appeal.

Then, some days after seeing the film, I feel compelled to look it up on the web — how can a film in which Cate Blanchett speaks fluent Italian and gets her hair shaved off, be off my RADAR?

All my suspicions are confirmed when I see that the film was written by Krzysztof Kieślowski of “Dekalog” and the multi-award winning “Three Colours” trilogy fame. ‘Heaven’ was also supposed to be part of a trilogy: “Heaven”, “Hell” and “Purgatory” — but he died in 1996 before “Purgatory” was written and before any were made.

“Heaven” is directed by German Tom Tykwer, set in Italy and in Italian and English, yet it is classed as an Hollywood movie from Miramax!

The second of the trilogy was released three years later, in 2005 as “L’Enfer” or “Hell” and although directed by Bosnian Danis Tanović, is a French film that explores the lives of three sisters — each unhappy since a secret childhood incident involving their father. Starring Emmanuelle Béart, Marie Gillain and Carole Bouquet, “Hell” is said to have been inspired by Euripides’sMedea“.

I am looking forward to seeing “Hell”, not merely for comparisons, but for contextual answers. Such a pity we will never know “Purgatory”!

I would recommend “Heaven”; it is a good and memorable film that can be taken as a light, albeit slightly weird, love story. And Cate Blanchett racks up considerable credits for getting her head shaved on camera and for taking on Italian dialog.


1. 'A very long engagement' « devine - 2007/04/02

[…] cross ref […]

2. FAKING IT « davedevine.co.uk - 2010/11/13

[…] or sing. Sandra Bullock is fluent in German. Cate Blanchett was superb in the Italian movie, “Heaven“, and Jodie Foster was a surprise French-speaker in “A very Long Engagement“. […]

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