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a home + living guide for the post-college, pre-parenthood, quasi-adult generation

07.31.2003

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Heaven
2002
Directed by: Tom Tykwer
Written by: Krzysztof Kieslowski, Krzysztof Piesiewicz
Starring: Cate Blanchett, Giovanni Ribisi
Language: English and Italian
Look for it at the video store under: drama
Watch it when youíre in the mood for something: artsy-fartsy, lovey
The critic says: / 5 the rating system explained
Fun factor: /5 

Plot synopsis Philippa is a British citizen living in Italy, an English teacher who decides she's fed up with doing the good, law-abiding thing when her repeated attempts at warning the authorities about a local drug kingpin are continually ignored. She's seen her husband as well as several of her students killed by the very drugs this man has been dealing, and she's frustrated, angry and determined to get justice in whatever way she can. One afternoon, she walks into the shiny skyscraper office building where the drug dealer works, makes her way calmly up the glass elevator with a bomb tucked away in her bag. It's a perfect plan: Philippa distracts the secretary, slips the bomb into the man's office wastebasket, then walks away. Unfortunately, the plan misfires, and Philippa ends up killing four innocent people while the target of her vengeance survives unscathed. When the police arrive to haul her away, she's hardly surprised ó until at the interrogation, she learns that the drug dealer is alive and well, and that instead, she's now responsible for the murder of a father, his two young children, and a cleaning woman. Horrified, devastated, appalled, and disappointed, Philippa faints. A young police officer named Filippo, serving as official English translator, rushes to her side. In the moment that she opens her eyes, Filippo, still holding Philippa's hand, has an epiphany: he's in love with this woman. Filippo offers to help Philippa break out of jail, although she only agrees on one condition: that she's not interesting in escaping her moral responsibility for her crimes, but merely in finishing the job of killing off the drug dealer.

Review There are movies I love because they have great characters, and movies I enjoy because they have a gripping plot. Heaven isnít an example of either of these. I donít come away from the film feeling like Filippo and Philippa are my new best friends; the pacingís so molasses-slow that Heaven is surely one of the least adventure-packed lovers-on-the-lam stories ever committed to film. Iím not sure I even entirely understand Heaven: why Filippo falls in love and subsumes himself in Philippa; why the two lovers-on-the-run shave their heads to look like either twin Hare Krishnas, or aliens, certainly neither one a particularly inconspicuous Iím-hiding-from-the-authorities disguise; why the film ends in the curious way it does. I mean, Iím a former art major, so I can b.s. about fate and duality and spiritual journeys as well as the next wannabe intellectual, but when it comes down to it, the movie doesnít really make much sense in the way of resembling anything close to how things generally work in the real world. But the thing about Heaven is that thereís something about it that sucks me in despite all this.  Itís just so, so beautiful ó and not just to look at either, although the visuals are gorgeous and meditative and almost unbearably perfectly pristine, hardly surprising since the movieís based on a Kieslowski (Blue/White/Red trilogy) screenplay that the director never got a chance to shoot before he passed away. What Tykwer brings to the film is a fantastic energy that crackles and tingles beneath all that lovely surface ó this is a movie you really feel as you much as you see: it gets under your skin, sweeps you up in a mood, an ambience, a magical spell. In the end, you feel the ideas that the film is trying to get across ó love and forgiveness, heaven ó more than you rationally understand any of these things. Like love itself, whatís amazing and mesmerizing about Heaven isnít so much about the head, but the heart. óreviewed by Yee-Fan Sun

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