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Laramie Movie Scope: Heaven

A fascinating moral dilemma

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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March 24, 2003 -- "Heaven" is a story of a fascinating moral dilemma faced by a woman who accidentally kills four innocent people in an attempted act of retribution. The story was co-written by legendary director Krzysztof Kieslowski ("Red," "White" and "Blue"). It is rumored to be the first part of a trilogy of stories, followed by "Hell" and "Purgatory."

Cate Blanchett ("Lord of the Rings") stars as Philippa, a woman who has watched her husband and other friends die from the effects of illegal drugs. The police are of no help in her quest for justice, so she decides to take matters into her own hands. She ends up in police custody, accused of being a terrorist. Police don't believe her story about trying to kill a high level drug dealer. One of the policemen, Filippo (played by Giovanni Ribisi of "Saving Private Ryan") however, believes her and ends up falling in love with her.

The two begin a most remarkable quest for justice and romance. Their relationship is far more complex than one would expect from a film about two fugitives on the run. This is no simplistic gangster drama, or road story. This is a film about a spiritual journey. There are also overtones of existentialism in the story as well, as the two main characters try to find morality and meaning in a system that is rigged against them. The overall tone of the story seems more positive than most existential plots, however.

Set in Turin, Italy and in the Italian countryside, the film explores the problem of finding morality and justice in an inherently corrupt system. While the corruption of the city is evident, Philippa and Filippo find love in a gorgeous farmland setting in rural Italy. It is not a return to innocence (even though Philippa literally returns to the place where she was born), however, as the two are well aware of the crimes they have committed. They are not trying to escape their moral responsibilities, rather, they are trying to live as much as they can in the moment of their freedom. In a sense, this is an existential, as much as it is a moral dilemma. The two are trying to impose their will on the universe in the Nietzschian sense. Their final flight is from reality itself and it is oddly reminiscent of the final scene of "Thelma and Louise" which shares a number of other themes with this film as well.

This is a very interesting film and, if you are a thinking person, it will haunt you for some time after you have seen it. Blanchett and Giovanni Ribisi are both very effective in this film, as is Remo Girone, who plays Filippo's father, a former police chief. Filippo's father is placed in an interesting situation when he finds that his son is a wanted man. The cinematography by Frank Griebe ("Run Lola Run") is very good. Effective use is made of location shots. Director Tom Tykwer ("Run Lola Run") directs this film with patience and style, letting the story unfold naturally. This is not a masterpiece, but it is a good film, with plenty of food for thought. This film rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy this movie in video and/or DVD format, the soundtrack, books, even used videos, games and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2003 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)