Heaven (Tom Tykwer) – movie review.

A couple of nights ago I watched the film “Heaven”, with Cate Blanchett and Giovanni Ribisi (Phoebe’s brother in Friends). I picked the film mainly because of its director Tom Tykwer, who wrote and directed one of my favourite films, Run, Lola Run. Heaven was not written by him.

Set in Italy, it is the story of a young lady (in her 30s) intent on revenge. Her husband died of a drug overdose, and she blamed his long time friend and dealer, who is also supplying teenagers in the school she works in. She blames him for their deaths too – this dealer also happens to be an important business executive. After a long time of pestering the police, she decides to take the law into her own hands, and she plants a bomb in his office. Only, the bomb doesn’t get him, it gets four innocent people.

She is arrested and is questioned by the police, and she is genuinely distraught to learn that she killed four innocent people (whether she is more upset for killing the innocent people, or for missing her intended target, I don’t know). In the course of her questioning, it becomes evident that there is police corruption, and she gets more frustrated. However, a young police officer (Ribisi) who is acting as translator, starts to feel sorry for her and falls for her (she used to be the English teacher of his younger brother). So he helps her to escape. But first she still want revenge. He helps entice the business executive into the police station, the police officer supplies her with a gun, and she kills the dealer/executive. Then they go into hiding and are chased by the police.

As they run, she learns to trust and love him. He has given up everything for her. They become more alike.

All along I was wondering why the film was called ‘heaven’. The director does of god job of getting us to feel for the woman, despite her crimes. I genuinely wanted them to get away.  It is also shot wonderfully, with many of the scenes giving images of heaven (for example, after she faints one time, he wakes her up has an angelic aura). I watched the special feature interviews on the DVD, and in it Cate Blanchett calls it a story of redemption. I just don’t see this. She is not redeemed from anything; they are on the run. She still gets revenge. She still does not face up to her crimes, and causes hardships for those she stays with. However, during the film, she is changed – transformed from a focussed lady with one intent, into a lady who learns to love and trust, by his love of her. I suppose this is a type of redemption, just not a very complete one.

The final scene is one in which they have stolen a police helicopter and they simply go up, into the sky, out of sight. I suppose, up to heaven.

A beautifully shot and interesting film, but ultimately one which fails to give a vision of heaven or redemption. Real redemption is not just moving past the failures and issues in our life, but having faced up to them, being freed from their power. In Christian thought, redemption is about being freed from the power of guilt, shame, and sin, not because they are in the past, but because they have been dealt with and paid for. In the film, her sins are not paid for, they are simply past.

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