Dennis D. McDonald ( consults from Alexandria Virginia. His services include writing & research, proposal development, and project management.

Tom Tykwer's HEAVEN

Movie review by Dennis D. McDonald

HEAVEN is an almost leisurely emotional odyssey of two seemingly dissimilar people — one a murderer, the other a young police officer — that evolves into a meditation on the relationship between morality and … gorgeous aerial photography?

I don’t mean that as a criticism. I just don’t pretend to understand what the director and writer are doing here, and I tried listening to the commentary on the DVD.

But I know I really enjoyed this film, which is different from the director’s other films RUN LOLA RUN and THE PRINCESS AND THE WARRIOR. Differences include:

  1. Much of the film is in Italian, not in German.
  2. Cate Blanchett, not Franka Potente, stars
  3. The pace is much more leisurely

Tykwer admits in the DVD’s commentary that he is enamored of the helicopter-mounted steady camera he uses to shoot much of the film. In the hands of another director this might have detracted from the focus on the two main characters, but here it actually reinforces their relationship.

It helps that the Italian countryside portrayed here is possibly the most gorgeous natural scenery than has ever appeared in a motion picture. The director realizes this and even adds some additional footage in the DVD extras to show off some of the additional scenery that was shot but not used. (At times I thought I was watching an IMAX film.).

It’s not just the scenery that is gorgeous; the lighting, clear focus, and colors of the city scenes are also extraordinary. Depth of focus in some scenes is simply phenomenal, with even distant objects shown clearly.

Back to the story, and the characters. Despite my comments above, this is not a travelogue. Two people are on the run. Cate Blanchett’s character has murdered innocent people, and a young police officer (Giovanni Ribisi) has fallen in love with her and has helped her escape to the country.

Had this movie been made 30 or 40 years ago we would have seen a hackneyed “doomed lovers on the lam from the Man” flick.Tykwer is too smart for that. He knows that’s what he’s playing with here but the emotional and moral quandaries are being worked out in a much more mature and quirky fashion than would have been the case with a lesser director.

Review copyright (c) 2005 by Dennis D. McDonald,