Heaven (2002) Movie Review

“Heaven” is the latest film from German Tom Tykwer (“Run Lola Run”), and stars Cate Blanchette (“Bandits”) as Philippa, an Englishwoman in Italy who plants a bomb in a man’s office, only to have fate intervene and move the bomb to another location where it kills 4 innocent people. The movie makes clear that Philippa is not a terrorist, but a desperate vigilante trying to avenge the death of her husband and numerous other victims of a businessman/drug dealer.

Joining Blanchett is Giovanni Ribisi (“Mod Squad”), one of the more talented young actors working today. Ribisi plays Filippo (the male name counterpart to Blanchett’s Philippa, natch), a cop at the Italian police station where Philippa is brought in. After falling madly in love with Philippa at first sight, the young and inexperienced Filippo creates the perfect breakout, and the duo soon flees the city and into the countryside, even as the country mobilizes after them.

The only way to approach “Heaven” is to take the entire movie as a dream, unconnected with reality. If one were to look at the film as anything else then its plot points and character motivations would come across as simplistic and wholly ridiculous. After the intelligent “The Princess and the Warrior,” “Heaven” is something of a letdown for Tykwer. Directed from a script by Krzystof Kieslowski and Krzystof Piesiewicz, the film is nothing more than 90 minutes of idyllic daydreaming.

The story, such as it is, really doesn’t deserve much attention, because the filmmakers themselves seem to care very little about it. Once Philippa is (willingly) in police custody, the film reveals that the cops are in cahoots with the drug dealers, and that “the fix is in.” But after a couple of looks between Filippo and Philippa, the duo hatches an escape plan to save Philippa from the frame-up. And so they do. Blah.

Unfortunately the escape is so laughable that if you had come into “Heaven” expecting a film grounded in real-life, you were quickly informed otherwise. Not only does the duo later return to the police station to commit a murder, but they also leave the station unnoticed. All this, mind you, after the whole country has been mobilized to look out for them. One might think that the entire Italian police force is this incompetent — not to mention corrupt to the nth degree — or one could just say that “Heaven” is a stream of conscious film not intended to be taken seriously and leave it alone.

Taking “Heaven” as a languid Sunday stroll through the lush Italian city, and then its countryside, is the real way to go. Tykwer continues to show a lot of ability with the camera, and seems to have all but forgotten the hyperkinetic action in “Run Lola Run.” As he did in “Princess,” “Heaven” consists of a series of slow moving longshots and long, stationary close-ups of its two stars. And if one needed to be reminded that this is nothing but some filmmaker’s daydream, then the movie’s final shot will most likely do it.

The acting is, of course, superb by both Blanchett and Ribisi, although one can’t help but notice that besides being at least 10 years older than Ribisi, Blanchett is also 2 or 3 inches taller. This makes the two character’s dichotomy a little easier to see, but it also gives them the (unintentional) appearance of mother and son. While I think Ribisi is a fine actor, I can’t help but think that perhaps another actor, who might stand a little taller, or was a little older, would have been a better choice. The fact that Ribisi’s character is younger than Blanchett’s is addressed, but making Filippo just a little bit older-looking, and hence older in age, wouldn’t have completely undermine the film’s story. (The writers hint at Blanchett’s Philippa possibly using the lovestruck Filippo.)

“Heaven” is beautiful and lyrical in its presentation, but there just isn’t much there to hold onto when all is said and done. Like a daydream, the film comes and goes, and once it’s gone you’ll think about it for a few moments, trying to remember it, but it’ll soon be forgotten and replaced by something better.

Tom Tykwer (director) / Krzysztof Kieslowski, Krzysztof Piesiewicz (screenplay)
CAST: Cate Blanchett …. Philippa Paccard
Giovanni Ribisi …. Filippo
Remo Girone …. His Father

Buy Heaven on DVD