Heaven


Directed by: Tom Tykwer
Written by:Krzysztof Kieslowski, Krzysztof Piesiewicz
Starring: Cate Blanchett, Giovanni Ribisi, Remo Girone, Stefania Rocca, Mattia Sbragia
Released: September 12, 2002
Grade: B+

They say that dead men don’t tell stories but Heaven shows this is not always the case.  Polish director Krzysztof Kieslowski was introduced to the world in 1994 when he made a trilogy of films dealing with contemporary French society concerns.  The films were Three Colours: Blue, Three Colours: White and Three Colours: Red.

Blue won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival and earned 3 Golden Globe nominations, White won the Silver Berlin Bear at the Berlin Film Festival, but it’s Red that most people will be familiar with, if at all.  Red was nominated for 3 Academy Awards (including best director and best screenplay) and appears on the Internet Movie Database as the 161st most popular film of all time.

With the world at his feet Kieslowski suddenly announced his retirement from filmmaking.  His rest was short-lived as he suffered a cardiac arrest and passed away in March 1996.  All the more surprising is to see his name appear during the opening credits as a writer of Heaven.  Yes, before he died, Kieslowski wrote one final script which has taken six years to make it into production.

Directed by creative German director Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run), Heaven begins magnificently.  Cate Blanchett is Philippa Paccard, a school teacher with a vendetta against a high profile business executive, Marco Vendice, who is selling drugs to her 13-year-old students.  After repeated requests for help to the police, she takes the law into her own hands and plants a makeshift bomb in a rubbish bin in Vendice’s office.

Unfortunately, the bin is emptied moments before detonation and instead of Vendice meeting a quick demise, a cleaner, a father and two innocent children are killed.  Arrested soon after, Philippa is remorseful when being interrogated.  She knows she deserves to be punished for her wrongs but still holds an immense desire to destroy Vendice.

An opportunity arises when the young interpreter in the interrogation room, Filippo (Ribisi), falls instantly in love with Philippa.  His younger brother is taught by Philippa and Filippo hears nothing but good stories and knows she is a decent woman.  He devises a cunning plan to break Philippa out of jail so they can elope and foolishly he believes they will live happily ever after.

The wonderful opening hour is softened by a yawning finish.  After the breakout, the film wanders all over the place.  It becomes a tacky, strange love story and chemistry between Ribisi and Blanchett is hard to find.  Everytime the film looks set to end, it carries on a little further with more frivolous romance.  Blanchett is the standout of the cast but Ribisi is solid in an unusual role for him.

The direction from Tykwer is the primary reason to see Heaven.  The camera work is magnificent.  Tykwer moves his cameras slowly to appreciate more of the surroundings in a very artistic way.  Towards the closing, he uses helicopter flyovers with little-to-no sound to again show his mastery of the craft.

It’s refreshing to see every audience in the world except the United States have the opportunity to taste Heaven.  The film isn’t scheduled for release in the States until the first week of October and only this week is showing to many leading U.S. critics at the Toronto Film Festival.  Before being released in Oz, Heaven has already played in Austria, Russia, Sweden, Israel, The Philippines, Norway, Belgium, Mexico and the United Kingdom.  If nothing else, the film is one final chance to pay homage to the great work of Krzysztof Kieslowski.