A collection of reviews of films from off the beaten path; a travel guide for those who love the cinematic world and want more than the mainstream releases.
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Discovery of Heaven (2001)
This is a film that tends to split the audience. I don't know why some people hate the film, though I can make some guesses. I do understand why some people love the film, since I'm one of those people.
This philosophical comedy/drama is based upon a novel by Harry Mulisch. It was directed by Jeroen Krabbe, best know as an actor in a variety of films including General Koskov in the James Bond film, The Living Daylights. I've read that the film was close to his heart and I can completely understand it since he did probably as good a job at bringing this story to the screen as we are likely to get. To be certain he had to remove a large chunk of the philosophical discussions that made the novel so well loved in some circles, and while I regret their loss I completely understand that for the story to work as a film they had to go.(Full Disclosure: I've read about a quarter of the novel and loved it but it was requiring more time then I had when I started to read it, so I put it down. I could have torn through it but to do so would have not done the book the justice it deserves. Its a good read)
The plot of the film has God fed up with mankind. He has reached the point where he wants nothing to do with us, but long ago he made a covenant with Moses and before he can wipe us out he has to get it back. In order to do this he needs someone capable of actually getting it back. In order to actually retrieve what he needs he needs a very special person. To this end he has some of his host of angels selectively breed a child who, when he grows up will be able of getting the covenant back for him. As the story opens the plan is close to completion and all that is required is for the young woman to mate with the two men who will be the child's fathers. (Hey its okay its the swinging 60's). What follows is the course of the child's life and how the choices made by men and angels affects the future of mankind.
I should stress that this is not a straight forward philosophical film. Its a film about people, Quentin, the child created by the Angels, his fathers Max and Onno (played wonderfully by Stephen Fry in one of his best roles) and his mother; and everyone that they deal with in the course of their lives. This is a film about life and people and what matters, and at the same time there's some business about god and the angels mixed in to keep things interesting. I should stress the angelic bits are the reason things are set in motion but not the reason the meat of the story, that is the people.
I love this film. It is in a way one of my favorite films of all time. I don't watch it often but I find myself frequently thinking about sequences and situations. It is a film that I carry around with me at all times. I don't need to see it because its right there with me just out of view. It spurs me on in many ways. I find myself engaging in internal battles about the meaning of it all and the nature of God and the universe. Honestly if you want to ponder why if there is a god and why he doesn't answer, this may provide some answers- we've pissed him off.
It is for me a near perfect film. I think everything in the film comes together to create the perfect combination of philosophy and entertainment. Its a film for the head and the heart. I love all of these people. I love the characters and the actors. I love Stephen Fry's Onno. He is a wonderful, sometimes difficult, man who loves his son but has a love hate relationship with life. I love Max the other father, an astronomer looking for and finding...something. And then there is Ada, the perfect woman any man could love. Actually I pretty much love everyone.
If there is a flaw in the film its the acting of one character, Quentin, the child created by angelic interference. The problem is not with the character himself, the problem is that he's played by several people of the course of the film and their acting, while never bad, never comes together to create a single character. Each person plays it slightly different and the result is not as strong as it should have been (its several characters, not one).
I love the film.
It would be wrong not to warn you that some people don't. Many have read the novel and hate the changes to the book. They hate the loss of the poetry and discussion. Others have kittens at the thought of God hating man and loosing faith in us. One enraged person who hates the film didn't think it was right to even suggest that god would ever consider wiping us out because he loves us so. I have no opinion and think that people are over thinking. Its a work of fiction and the notion of an angry deityis merely a plot device. Still others just don't like it for any of a number of reasons.
Personally I love a film that splits the audience. I love a film that makes you think and feel and react. This is one of those films. I can't say whether you'll love the film or if you'll hate it but I'm pretty certain that you will have a reaction to it. You will not just sit there and have it wash over you before you move on to the next thing.
See this movie. Feel something for some good characters. Have your gray cells tickled and maybe think of something new.
I'm sure you're either going to thank me or hate me, because I know you're not going to just shrug and walk off.
The availabilty of this film in the US seems to be only as an import DVD. Some Amazon e-sellers have it. I've read, but I don't know how accurate it is, that this film has never gotten an American distributor partly because some distributors didn't like it and partly because some people didn't know if they could market it.
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