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Review: Heaven (2011)

Heaven (2011)

Directed by: Sacha Polak | 80 minutes | drama | Actors: Hannah Hoekstra, Hans Dagelet, Rifka Lodeizen, Mark Rietman, Barbara Sarafian

In the Dutch drama ‘Heaven’ we meet a young girl who tries to fuck away a complicated father complex with as many lovers as possible.

Anyone who finds the word fuck too vulgar can drop out (it gets worse) and don’t have to buy a ticket for this drama. Hemel combines arthouse cinema with chatter about sex, pee, spit and poo. But luckily also about more interesting things.

The story of ‘Heaven’ is completely up to date (2012) and therefore very recognizable. Young people who use their sexuality as an anesthetic for growing pains, and as a weapon and armor against all the complicated and threatening issues that adult life confronts them with. For example, the title character has to deal with an absent mother, a father who has new lovers all the time, and a life path with no clear direction that she has to take without a compass.

Fascinating subject matter, but not always interesting to follow. This is due to the unconvincing way in which Hemel indulges her lusts. She mainly does this by addressing complete strangers with bone-dry sentences along the lines of ‘I have a very wet cunt’. These provocative phrases come from a time when they were capable of shocking and were only meant to break taboos. In the 21st century, such sentences fit at most with the absurdist universe of Wim T Schippers or with a parody of Dutch nude films. In a realistic drama they sound unnatural and bizarre.

What is also not convincing are the characters of Hemel and her father. Judging by outings (Seville, classical concert) and work (auctioneer), they are of an intellectual nature. Still, the vulgar drips off, especially if there are toilets nearby. There is no reserve, and that curses the civilization they display in other matters.

This is all the more sad when you consider that Heaven is a great movie in most respects. Image and sound complement each other beautifully, as in the related ‘Joy’. Hannah Hoekstra acts formidably and as long as the dialogues are not about sex, a lot of sensible things are told and relationships are convincingly exposed. Nevertheless, ‘Heaven’ is an uneasy combination of outdated taboo-breaking and urgent modern cinema.

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