Customer Review

27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How high can you fly?, 18 Jan 2006
This review is from: Heaven [DVD] [2002] (DVD)
What is true love? What would we do to keep it, once we find it? Is this what it is like to find a true soulmate? What is wrong and right if we seek redemption, but are dragged down by a lust for justice? The quietly beautiful "Heaven" will leave those thoughts in your head as you watch it.
In Italy, young schoolteacher Phillipa Paccard (Cate Blanchett) sneaks into drug kingpin Vendice's office and plants a bomb in his trash, little knowing that the trash is about to be collected by the cleaning lady. The resulting explosion kills the lady, a father and his two children. When Phillipa is arrested and told this, she is aghast. She only intended to kill the kingpin, because his distribution of drugs has been killing her pupils, and killed her husband. She has asked the cabinieri to help, but no one has answered. So she took justice into her own hands.
A young Italian cabinieri, Filippo (Giovanni Ribisi), serves as a translator for Phillipa, and he is struck by her self-recrimination and sorrow. When her evidence is destroyed by a spy in the police, Philipo creates an elaborate escape plan, then helps her kill Vendice. From there, they escape into Tuscany, where their bond grows deeper. The soul mates live in what seems like a paradise, shaving their heads and wearing identical clothes. But Tuscany is not heaven, and they are still not safe.
Tom Tykwer gave the film its focus (lovers in jeopardy) and unearthly direction, but Krzysztof Kieslowski provided the heart and soul of it. In that sense, it is wholly his movie. Themes of guilt and redemption, love and salvation, punishment and forgiveness run deep in "Heaven." Symbolism clings to it like ivy (the white shirts, the bright lights), and there are definite religious tones to it -- Phillipa's confession to Filipo in a church, the wistful watching of a wedding, and the ascension into the skies -- not the triumph of law, but the triumph of love and forgiveness.
The handling of Phillipa and Filippo is exquisite, such as the scenes where they shave their heads and wear identical clothes, run and walk in unison. He was born on the day of her first communion, and their names are male and female versions of each other's, yin and yang. Not exactly subtle, but convincing. The direction is otherworldly, even in scenes like Phillipa shooting Vendice. In the latter half of the film, this dreaminess pervades everything -- the trees, sky, ruined stone churches and the tiny running figures.
The main problems, it seems, would be the ocasional clash between Tykwer and the late Kieslowski's style. Some parts are more Tykwer, some are more Kieslowski, so it seems sometimes that the focus is less on the storyline and more on the lovers (which is more Tykwer). Additionally, when the lovers arrive in Tuscany the tone changes to a less hard-edged, more romantic one. Some viewers may find this disconcerting, but I found it a natural progression as the two grew closer and sought some kind of haven, even if Phillipa doesn't want to go unpunished.
Cate Blanchett is in amazing form here, expressing grief, love, pride, and anger with only a slight change of expression. Giovanni Ribisi is almost as good; he's a little stiff in the beginning, but loosens up and becomes fully believable as a very young man who is very deeply in love. Remo Girone appears in only a few scenes as Filipo's dad, but is heartbreakingly good.
With the best of Tykwer and Kieslowski carefully woven together, "Heaven" is a quietly passionate, deeply romantic movie. An amazing, heartbreaking movie, and not one to be missed.
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