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Heaven (rewatch)

Posted by martinteller on September 20, 2012

Philippa (Cate Blanchett), an English teacher living in Italy, has made a grave error.  She has knowledge of a powerful executive who is involved with the sale of drugs to children, but the police have not responded to her.  Taking matters into her own hands, she plants a bomb in the man’s office, but fate steps in and instead four innocent people are killed.  As she tells her story to the Carabinieri, the young translator Filippo (Giovanni Ribisi) falls in love with her, and he hatches a plan.

I’ve been slacking in my “dusting off DVDs” project… that is, rewatching the movies I own but haven’t seen in at least 5 years.  That’s largely because this one was next, and I just couldn’t work up the interest to see it again.  I’d forgotten most of it, which I took as a bad sign.  My fears were unfounded, although my reaction the second time is a bit less enthusiastic than the first.

We cannot know what plans Kieslowski (and Piesiewicz) might have had for this film, and the rest of the trilogy.  He had announced his retirement from directing, but would he have changed his mind?  Or selected a different director?  Might he have changed the script?  I don’t know, and a cursory search for answers hasn’t yielded much information.  I do believe that had he directed it, the film would have been far richer and denser.  Tykwer does many admirable and wonderful things with this film.  It’s paced wonderfully and — for a while, at least — raises some very intriguing moral dilemmas and complexities.  But as the movie works towards its ending, it seems to run out of thematic gas and becomes a more straightforward lovers-on-the-lam flick.  A very good one, mind you, but there isn’t enough development of the themes, few of the little details and twists that one would expect from Kieslowski.

This isn’t a condemnation of the movie, which is extremely watchable (the first hour is over before you know it), beautifully photographed and features a quality performance by Blanchett (Ribisi fails to leave much of an impression, but he’s fine).  It just doesn’t have quite enough to chew on, and I won’t be keeping it in my collection.  Rating: Very Good (85)

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2 Responses to “Heaven (rewatch)”

  1. kevlarcardhouse said

    You must have a pretty harsh criteria if something can score an 85 with you and still not be worth keeping! I agree with you, though. Stylistically, Twkyer is probably the perfect choice for a Kieslowski script, but on a philosophical level he just doesn’t have the chops. I still haven’t seen the other two films of the trilogy – they are not easy to find in my neck of the woods.

    • The only criteria for having/keeping a movie in my collection is “Am I going to want to see this again?”. There are movies I’ve scored 90 and over that I have no interest in owning. It’s very weird assigning numbers to movies, but it’s a habit I can’t break out of.

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