Multi-lingual young teacher Philippa (Cate Blanchett) plants a bomb in the office of Vendice (Stefano Santospago) a senior company executive in Turin, whom she knows through her late husband - dead of a drug overdose. Vendice is the drug dealer she holds responsible – not only for his death but also for others, including a young girl student of hers. But the bomb accidentally kills four innocent people, and when Philippa is arrested and told, she is devastated. During questioning at the hands of the prosecutor - and surrounded by corrupt police - the young Carabineri who acts as her official interpreter (she wants to testify in her native English) is the only one who believes Philippa’s story and, deeply smitten by the young woman, decides to help her. The decision leads them both on a journey of love and deadly danger.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
A gripping thriller about a woman’s justifiable revenge turns into a compelling love drama with a poetic spiral that rises like a fugue on a sunny day, in this intense and engaging film from Tom Tykwer. In fact it’s from a whole team of people really, starting with the two writers, including the revered filmmaker Kieslowszki, the Polish director who died prematurely, but not before writing this screenplay in 1996. (It was the first of a planned trilogy, to have been followed by Purgatory and Hell.) Sydney Pollack and Harvey Weinstein championed the script, as did the English director Anthony Minghella, who felt he was not right to make it. All eyes on Tykwer, then, who has surely satisfied all expectations in bringing the screenplay to life. Set in Tuscany, starring an Australian and an American Italian, with a German director and part US finance, the film could have become a spoilt broth with too many cooks. It has turned out a superb dish of great complexity and appeal, satisfying and rich without being too heavy and leaving you wanting more. The film’s great achievement is in creating and maintaining a certain mood, a tone that zings with tension and with layers of drama, with contextualised characters and with instantly recognisable humanity. It begins as a thriller, with an exceptionally well directed sequence that has us on edge for several minutes. It seems to shift gears as it becomes a psychological thriller, and then an escape movie, the latter half driven by a deep, understated love that develops quickly but quietly between the two central characters. Superbly performed by all, but especially by the two leads (who handle the dual languages with ease), Heaven probes areas of our psyche that are deeply seated and it generates an unusual lift of the spirit, despite its dramatic curve.
Review by Louise Keller:
It’s ironic, that Tom Tykwer’s first English language film, is actually half in Italian, with English sub-titles. It’s also ironic that in Heaven, Tykwer’s heroine is played by Cate Blanchett, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Franka Potente, who starred in his previous two films Run Lola Run and The Princess and the Warrior. But irony aside, Heaven is a film with a pedigree, bearing the stamp of luminaries such as Sydney Pollack and Anthony Minghella, who together with Harvey Weinstein are listed as executive producers of this project. It’s also wonderfully fresh, unexpectedly gentle and thoroughly engaging. An escape drama focussed on its love element, Heaven has a fairy tale-like quality that creates a dense and gentle mood. Tykwer’s unique touch is all over it – from the choice of shots to the simple intensity he brings to the central relationship. It’s a story about revenge, but the whole mood of the film changes totally, as Philippa and Filippo’s lives become entwined and they escape from the real world. The similarity of their names is no coincidence, and by the film’s end, they are not only totally committed to each other and their fate, but they even look the same, both with shaved heads, white t-shirts and jeans. (Blanchett has a perfect head shape and looks great, even with no hair!) Throughout the drama, the prison escape and subsequent shooting, there is a sense of timelessness: there are no hysterics, and everything happens calmly and without panic. Even the music is subdued and muted (Tykwer has written only a couple of the pieces this time) and there are some scenes that stand out for their stark silence and the lack of music. It’s an unlikely love story between guard and prisoner, based not on passion, but on ethereal love. Blanchett and Ribisi (who also worked together in The Gift) make a compelling couple – at first, they seem so different, but as their destinies are intermeshed, their natures seem to blend effortlessly into one another. Blanchett gives yet another marvellous performance, and Ribisi is haunting as the quiet, subdued prison guard who finally finds his calling. I love the scene when Phillippa and Filippo hide behind the milk crates in the getaway truck, and wait patiently, while the driver has a front seat passionate liaison with the cake shop assistant. (Tykwer has an obsession for milk trucks it seems!) From the bleak prison environment to the glorious, tranquil landscape where there are no borders, Heaven takes us on a delicate emotional journey of the heart. The destination may be left high in the air, but it’s a satisfying and memorable excursion that leaves us breathless.
Email this article
HEAVEN SAVED FROM HELL
CAST: Cate Blanchett, Giovanni Ribisi, Remo Girone, Stefania Rocca, Alessandro Sperduti, Pini Mattia, Alberto Di Stasio
PRODUCER: Anthony Minghella, Maria Kopf, William Horberg, Stefan Arndt, Frederique Dumas
DIRECTOR: Tom Tykwer
SCRIPT: Krysztof Kieslowski, Krysztof Pieisewicz
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Frank Griebe
EDITOR: Mathilde Bonnefoy
MUSIC: Tom Tykwer
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Uli Hanisch
RUNNING TIME: 97 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: BVI
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 12, 2002
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Buena Vista Home Entertainment
VIDEO RELEASE: May 21, 2003 (Also on DVD)