New Internationalist

Heaven

Issue 349
Pursued: Cate Blanchett and Giovanni Ribisi in Heaven

A woman plants a bomb in a Turin office. But instead of killing the company boss, the bomb kills three visitors and a cleaner.

Police investigators accuse her of belonging to a terrorist organization but, she claims, her intended victim is a drug baron, responsible for the deaths of her husband and several children in her school – she’s a teacher. The police clerk who knows of her – his brother is in her class – believes her, and offers to help her escape.

Heaven was written by Krzysztof Kieslowski and Krzysztof Piesiewicz. They wrote, and Kieslowski directed, some of the best films made in Eastern Europe in the last decade of Communism. A Short Film about Love, for example, and A Short Film about Killing which sparked a debate about the death penalty in Poland and led to its abolition. Later, in France, they made the acclaimed Three Colours trilogy – Blue, White and Red. People in their stories are often lonely and cut off in some way from human warmth and fellowship. Sometimes they find redemption: they learn to open out, to trust.

This theme is evident in Heaven, but the difference here is the directorial absence of Kieslowski, who died in 1996. Tom Twyker, who directs, made the pulsating Run, Lola, Run and handles pace, space and suspense superbly. Yet he can’t quite summon the emotional depth of Kieslowski’s direction, the focus on interior life – and the revelation that change is possible. The film veers away from the teacher’s acute grief and becomes plot-driven – an escape drama cum love story. Although the ending is a cinematic coup, this isn’t the film it might have been.

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