HeavenCate Blanchett, Giovanni Ribisi.
Directed by Tom Tykwer.
Running Time: 97 mins
This finely-crafted film is set in Turin, the home of the famous shroud. Given that nothing in any of the late Krzysztof Kieslowski's work was there by accident, then the location for this screenplay is of great significance.
Philippa (Blanchett) is an Englishwoman teaching in an Italian high school. After her husband and some of her students die from drug overdoses she seeks out and attempts to kill Vendice (Stefano Santospago), the leader of the Turin drug cartel. It goes horribly wrong and she ends up killing four innocent people. During the police interrogation, she gains the sympathy of Giovanni (Ribisi), her official police translator. He aids her escape and they hit the road in search of a little piece of heaven on earth. Soon enough their past catches up with them. It was not lost on Kieslowski that the Catholic tradition often speaks about heaven as the final resting place, where the dead are at peace. In this film heaven is as much a state
of mind as a defined space.
Kieslowski's work always has dense plots, complex characters, mixed motivations and symbols everywhere. This script, the last one he wrote, was to be the first of a trilogy Heaven, Hell and Purgatory, and it is as nuanced as all his other works. For example we should hate Philippa's vengeance, except she is mad with grief at the drug baron dealing in death. We should be able to dismiss Giovanni except he is an innocent in a corrupt world. We should resent the legal system, except personal revenge often leads to more evil. Kieslowski was a master at understanding the ambiguity in the human condition. There is a sex scene and some nudity that may offend some people.
Young German director Tom Tykwer joins forces with producer Anthony Minghella, of The English Patient fame, to give us a tense, beautifully shot and superbly acted film.
Turin was the right location for this story. The word "shroud" is used in three different contexts these days: a shroud of secrecy; the shroud of death; and that some things are shrouded in mystery. From the opening frame to its final one Heaven explores all three meanings to great effect.
Richard Leonard SJ