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"heaven" (2002) - tom tykwer
posted on 1-Dec-2002 by anton
"heaven" has been directed by tom tykwer, a figure charged with an ongoing attempt of reviving the german cinema, a prodigy director that has been consistently exploring the game of chance and stylish camera work that appeared throughout his three most recent films. the writing credits feature krzysztof kieslowski; similar to "decalogue" series, "heaven" was meant to be a part of a trilogy, based on dante - an ambitious project never finished by kieslowski.

the legacy of both directors kept clashing in my head, as I was trying to pin down this film. fierce idealism of kieslowski (so appropriate for "decalogue") did not seem to play along well with stunning panoramic shots so familiar to anyone that has seen tykwer's work. chance and coincidence have always been a positive, driving force in tykwer's films, in "heaven" chance is what starts an unfortunate sequence of events, and then the story unwinds under the strict guidance of fate.

I kept thinking that perhaps a moral dilemma, themes of redemption and justice could have been explored much better in a shorter, less "gimmicky" format; this viewpoint made "heaven" seem stretched, often unnecessary. once again, it was the legacy of "decalogue" speaking up.

throughout "heaven" the director is trying to re-create the balance, the symmetry upset by deaths of innocent people. the characters are trying to find heaven, and apparently love is the way to it. the helicopter simulator that started the movie cannot rise high enough to see the perfect symmetry of urban landscapes that the camera keeps showing us over and over again. this symmetry is what characters are after, until finally they get a helicopter of their own and disappear in heaven in a way that only they know about (the audience just sees the blinding light).

notice how the film unwinds - from incredibly fast-paced beginning it gradually slows down; instead of initially fast montage we see increasingly slow camera work, those lengthening lapses of time, stillness and simplicity that leads to the final flash of bright light. the characters (lead by the director) turn to each other in search of heaven, and quickly become androgynous figures (notice how pure their relationships are as they sleep fully clothed), wearing the same jeans and t-shirts, their heads shaved, their names the same, their birthdays on the same day, only separated by years. the spiral unwinds, until they are standing naked in front of each other with emptiness surrounding them (they have arrived at the original sin, and advanced past it, becoming pure and free of human sins, possessing some other kind of love?)...

it was an awkward film to grasp for me, given strong recognizable styles of both kieslowski and tykwer. "heaven" should be considered independently from their previous work, and only then meticulously composed scenes, "streamlined" quality of the story, its pace, and the ending start making sense.

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