Urban Cinefile
"One lady threw herself at me and hugged me and kissed me and called out, 'Francis! Francis!…She was pissed, but it helped my confidence no end!"  -Sir Derek Jacobi on his role as Francis Bacon in Love is The Devil
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Thursday, November 16, 2017 

Search SEARCH FOR A REVIEW
Our Review Policy OUR REVIEW POLICY
Printable page PRINTABLE PAGE

Help/Contact

HEAVEN'S BURNING

SYNOPSIS:
Midori (Youki Kudoh) is a Japanese bride at the start of her honeymoon in Sydney. She married Yukio (Isomura), under pressure of tradition, but does not have the courage to tell him she doesn’t love him. She fakes her own kidnapping, to meet her former lover, who loses his nerve and doesn’t show. Ironically, she goes to change some cash when a bank robbery goes wrong and she really is taken hostage. The bank robbers are from an Afghani family who have recruited Colin (Crowe) as their getaway driver. When they are going to kill Midori, Colin comes to her rescue, and shoots one of the Afghani brothers, accidentally killing him. The two are forced to run from the vengeance seeking Mahood (Mammone) and his father Boorjan (Gheorghiu). Also after them are the cops, and the enraged Yukio. In the meantime, Midori and Colin are falling in love….

"One of the most satisfying aspects of Heaven’s Burning is the richness of the setting, from the characters to the locations, and even the storyline itself. Yes, it’s a love story, but that love story does not suffocate a number of other features, often subtle, sometimes not. For example, the family that robs the bank is from Afghanistan, migrants who carry their culture, their customs, but also their lap tops, into inner city suburban Australia. There is no attempt to explain their ethnicity in the film, thank goodness: they are just part of this society. Through Midori and her husband, we see into aspects of Japanese social strictures and cultural guidelines which inform the motives of these characters. Through Colin and his father (Barrett), we see one type of Australian family . . . all of this is woven together under an action plot, but with great regard for character. The bank robbery fuses together two strangers with vast differences, which of course the human heart simply ignores. There is drama, a few smiles, tragedy and pathos all jostling about in the love story, and made powerful by a superb supporting cast, Mammone and Gheorghiu in particular. Koudoh is great as both the nervous, unhappy bride, and the self-confident gamin bursting through to freedom, in contrast to Crowe’s country-boy stillness. With Wagner’s Isolde’s Liebestod accompanying the climactic scenes, Heaven’s Burning clutches at cinematic poetry as the full meaning of the title is etched into our memories."
Andrew L. Urban

"This is a well made Aussie road movie with strong performances, excellent cinematography and great music. An interesting plot incorporates elements of Japanese, Afghani and Australian cultures in a fascinating context. Russell Crowe is reasonably convincing as Colin, flawed but not without a conscience. It is a role which relies on subtleties and nuances, and Crowe delivers well. Youki Kudoh as Midori is pretty as a picture, and handles the change of her character well - from timid, intimidated unhappy bride, to the confident, happy lover in control of her life. Her performance, however, is patchy. Why oh why, when Midori is bumming it on the run in the outback Australian towns, is she always made up as though she is ready for a make-up shoot? This somewhat hinders the convincing nature of her performance. And if the blond wig is necessary (I tend to agree with Paul, below), does it have to look false? These elements actually in part are a detraction from the convincing nature of the character. Especially when Kenji Isomura’s (Yukio) transition from sedate Japanese husband to shaved headed bikie is so effective. Isomura gives a fantastic performance: perhaps the most memorable in the film. The scenes with the Afghani family at home are fascinating with strong performances. Brian Breheny’s cinematography shows much of the beauty and diversity of Sydney and the wide open spaces in the Australian countryside. The music soundtrack is hugely diverse with tracks from Marlene Dietrick to the Budapest Symphony Orchestra playing Mozart and provides great impact."
Louise Keller

"Often, Australian cinema prides itself on its sense of originality and audacity, so when a film so full of promise is such a major disappointment, one has the distinct feeling that our industry has suddenly regressed. The idea behind Heaven’s Burning is a noble one, but it’s an idea whose execution is a total misfire, from script, to direction and even to performances. The film has so many ludicrous moments, a collage of plot holes so gaping, that one wonders what the thinking was. The film begins promisingly, as the Japanese bride feigns her own kidnapping before taking off with a reluctant bank robber. From then on, nobody knows what to do, and the film becomes a series of absurd coincidences. Let’s take the jilted husband. Meek, bespectacled, respected. His wife embarrasses him, so he shaves his head, kills his best friend, and with his limited English, manages to motorcycle his way from Sydney to the outback, without a map, turning into this Japanese biker from hell. The film switches from surrealism to moments of excessive violence, but even these are staged in such a way that the outcome is obvious. The final sequence, featuring an overbearing slice of romantic music out of Ryan’s Daughter swells up in deafening proportion and over one of the more silly climaxes of contemporary filmdom. One would hope, however, that following his turn in LA Confidential, Russell Crowe would be able to save the film from total tedium. Regrettably he adds to it, delivering the laziest and most lacklustre performance of his career. He is so stilted, so unemotive, that the romantic relationship between the two central characters is unbelievable. Even their love scene is sleep-inducing. Only Kudoh as the bride, adds a bit of style to the film, until she dons a blonde wig for reasons that remain unfathomable. Visually, the film is far better, but Craig Lahiff’s direction is muddled, hampered by a script that fuses so many styles that it becomes a mass of contradictions. There’s so much passion in our industry; none of it is present in Heaven’s Burning."
Paul Fischer

Email this article

Read Andrew L. Urban's FEATURE
YOUKI KUDOH INTERVIEW



HEAVEN’S BURNING (MA15+)
(Australia)

CAST: Russell Crowe, Youki Kudoh, Kenji Isomura, Robert Mammone, Petru Gheorghiu, Ray Barrett, Colin Hay, Matthew Dyktinsky, Anthony Phelan, Norman Kaye, Kate Fitzpatrick

PRODUCER: Al Clark, Helen Leake

DIRECTOR: Craig Lahiff

SCRIPT: Louis Nowra

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Brian Breheny

EDITOR: John Scott

MUSIC: Graeme Koehne and Michael Atkinson

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Vicki Niehus

RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes

INTERNATIONAL SALES: Beyond Films

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: REP

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 6, 1997







© Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2017