Monday, June 27, 2011
NYAFF Heaven's Story (2010) (with addendum)
This is not so much a recommendation, more it's an explanation about what you maybe getting into if you decide to try this very long film at the NYAFF.
Takahisa Zeze's four hour and forty minute, two years in the making story about what happens in the wake of several murders will either strike you as a masterpiece or sleep aid. I'm not going to lie, I think the story is brilliant. I think everything, except the pace, is wonderful. The pace is probably best described as incredibly slow.
The plot of the film has to do with a girl named Sato. Sato's family is killed by a madman and she is sent to live with her grandfather. She runs off but takes strength from the story of a father who has vowed to kill the man who killed his wife and child. Over the next several decades the lives of Sato, the father, the killer and several other people ebb and flow. Its all joined together by the story of a monster who became a fox spirit and who created other monsters accidentally.
I have no idea what to say except it's a brilliant story...but...
The make or break of this film is the pacing. This is a film that takes its time getting where it's going at it's own pace. The film is full of long takes, silent sequences, things that seem like uncontrolled digressions-but aren't and odd conversations, and so many characters (at different points in time) that the film can seem like a Russian novel.
I'm not going to lie, this film was a long tough slog for me. I wanted to scream. So often I wanted it to tell me where it was going. Even when it did reward me with an AH HA! moment I still couldn't believe it took so long to get there.
On the other hand the film has a story that is actually good at its heart, some moving moments (the Christmas sequences touched me), some great philosophy, and some beautiful images. There is enough here that had this not been so damn rambling I would recommend it with out reservation. But to me, and this is just my personal opinion, its just way too long. Frankly I stopped caring and paying attention, which hurt me when things finally really came together at the end.
Simply put I intellectually like the film and it's something I'd like to discuss and pick over, but as something to actually watch again, I'll pass.
Whether you make this a choice for the NYAFF you're going to have to decide whether or not you feel about a long, deliberate film that ambles to its conclusion.
For better or worse Heaven’s Story has been haunting me since I saw it. When I wrote the previous piece up several hours after I saw the film that was how I felt. Now, several days later I find that while I still think the film is too long and too slow, I think the central story and it’s themes including the frightening notion that by coming into contact with monsters we maybe come monsters haunting. Other films have come and gone but Heaven’s Story’s themes still haunt me on the fringes of of psyche.
I still can’t really recommend the film if you don’t think you can deal with its pacing, but if you can you might find a film that kicks you to the curb a couple of days after you see it.