|Shooting period||July 2000 – September 2000|
|Locations||Turin, Montepulciano, Bottrop|
|Production||X Filme Creative Pool and Miramax Films|
|World Premiere||6 February 2002|
|Cinematic Release||21 February 2002|
|Distribution||X Verleih AG|
|Intl. Distribution||Miramax International|
|•||Official competition entry at the 2002 Berlin Film Festival|
|•||German Film Prize (silver) 2002 for "Best Film"|
|•||Nomination for Remo Girone at the German Film Prize 2002 as "Best Supporting Male Role"|
|•||Gilde Film Prize 2002 (gold)|
|•||Golden Prize at the Gaia International Film Festival in Portugal|
|•||Nomination for Best European Screenplay and Best European Cinematography at the European Film Awards 2002|
|•||"Special Mention for Excellence in Filmmaking" at the National Board of Review 2002|
|•||German Film Critics’ Prize 2002 for Best Camera|
|•||"Jupiter 2002" for Best German Directio|
by Peter Cowie.
“Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, Or what’s a heaven for?”
Robert Browning (1812-1889)
Released only a few months after the atrocities of 9/11, Heaven confused (even appalled) many spectators with its opening sequence showing a young woman deliberately planting a bomb in a crowded skyscraper in Turin. As time elapses, however – both since the film was made and during the running of the movie itself – Heaven may be seen as a complex, compelling study in vulnerability. Cate Blanchett’s Philippa cannot quite grasp that a derisory accident of fate has led to her bomb killing not the corrupt businessman-cum-drug dealer she has targeted but four innocent people instead. As Tykwer has said in his commentary for the DVD, the explosion is “an internal wound, ripping the soul of this woman.” Unable to reconcile herself with her guilt, Philippa embarks on a flight away from the city, away from “reality”, into a spiritual state of mind induced by her burgeoning love for the carabiniere who has engineered her escape from jail.
The strength of the original screenplay by Krzysztof Kieslowski and Krzysztof Piesiewicz stems from its constant flow of unexpected revelations and incidents. Philippa and Filippo (their names suggesting their intimate kinship, the yin and the yang, the id and the ego) react instinctively to the twists and turns of the drama enveloping their lives. Like Sissi and Bodo in The Princess and The Warrior, their initial exchange of glances seems to bypass any number of conventional meetings and dates. Their complicity is their mainstay through the long process of evading the law and finding their particular “heaven”.
When they reach the Tuscan town of Montepulciano, they realise that they are condemned to eternal banishment from the orthodox world. They watch a wedding in the town square, with its relaxed expression of joy, knowing they can never share such things, any more than they could enjoy plain, spontaneous sex of the kind they witness between a milkman and a shop-girl as they hide in a van in Turin. Their eventual union assumes a more ritualistic character, as they stand naked together beneath a mighty tree that has a poetic charge of the kind one associates with the Taviani brothers. And their final ascent into a redemptive sky provides the perfect riposte to the flying instructor in the opening sequence of the movie, when he tells Filippo, “In a real helicopter, you can’t just keep on flying higher.” Filippo’s reply, “How high can you fly?” not only prefigures the conclusion of the film, but also underscores a perennial Tykwer theme – that at the right moment one must do what no one expects…
Once again, Tykwer’s lesser characters assume a rich and distinctive profile. Filippo’s father, for instance, a dignified career cop who recognises his son’s destiny and commits all the love he can muster into a final embrace. Or Philippa’s old friend Regina, who expresses the shock and confusion of us, the audience, as she suddenly encounters the fugitives in Montepulciano and yet gives them food and shelter almost without hesitation. Or even the villain of the piece, Vendice, who is shot dead by Philippa; glimpsed for only a few seconds in toto, he gives off an arrogant, callous air that reveals his contempt for those around him.
This does not detract from the extraordinary performances of Cate Blanchett as Philippa and Giovanni Ribisi as her alter ego, Filippo. Philippa’s susceptibility is communicated with small, discreet gestures, as when she touches the wood of the door-frame for luck as she leaves her apartment carrying the bomb. As her interpreter during the police interrogation, Filippo identifies increasingly with this confused, perplexed woman. Ribisi’s childlike features express Filippo’s gradual realisation that the carabinieri, the legal institution for which he and his father work, may be corrupt.
Tykwer’s personality runs like a watermark throughout Heaven. The subtle choice of locations governs the tone of the film, from the mysterious attic where the fugitives enjoy a charmed sanctuary, to the noble church of San Biaggio in Montepulciano where Filippo’s father bids farewell to his son. Tykwer’s use of close-ups has never been so assured, so revealing. He and his cinematographer Frank Griebe set the faces slightly off-centre, so that they seem to possess an existence beyond the frame. As the director has noted, “The film is really ruled by looks and glances.” Appearances are deceptive: dark glasses obscure the true face of first Filippo, as he steers his helicopter in the simulator, and then Philippa, as she travels through Turin on her deadly mission. In another typical Tykwer touch, the gigantic clock-face reflected through the skylight of the attic, suggests an infernal circle in which Philippa and Filippo are trapped, while time ticks inexorably forward and coerces them into taking risks and finding solutions.
Like many other Tykwer characters, these unlikely lovers bear the scars of emotional loss. Philippa confesses that she was in the process of getting a divorce when her husband died, while Filippo seems to have no mother, even if his younger brother Ariel is as close to his father as he is. In an impulsive but fruitless attempt at disguise, they have their heads shaved. The effect is to give them the appearance of spiritual twins, and confirms their childlike naïveté. Only now can they accept the notion of Utopia that beckons so alluringly as the authorities close in.
The suspense inherent in the original screenplay -- although re-written in various forms prior to shooting in English and Italian -- overcomes any faint whiff of implausibility in the plot (could Philippa really have learned bomb-making techniques with such skill? Surely the police headquarters would have been searched more thoroughly?). Once again, the editing of Mathilde Bonnefoy contributes enormously to the fluent, seamless progression of the film, and blends the gripping realism of the early scenes with the dreamlike journey into the heart of Tuscany. The “space cam” technique, already used to such brilliant effect in The Princess and the Warrior, enhances the ethereal nature of this flight from reality. So too does the eerie music of Estonian composer Arvo Pärt, which plays a similarly portal role to Ligeti’s piano refrain in Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut. As always in Tykwer’s world, intervals of silence can be as eloquent as any amount of music or sound effects.
Heaven remains a film pulsating with contradictions, from which two personalities emerge “naked as nature intended,” with an essential innocence that enables them to escape society’s retribution, while almost miraculously retaining the audience’s sympathy. No previous work by Tykwer has been conceived and realised on such a grand scale. Kieslowski, one feels, would be proud…
In Turin, four innocent people are victims of a bomb attack. An English teacher named Philippa is taken into custody – she does not resist her arrest. Philippa is, nevertheless, utterly destroyed by what has occurred, because the bomb was intended for someone else altogether, namely a drug dealer responsible for the death of her husband as well as the deaths of many of her students. However, for reasons not immediately apparent, the police insist that Philippa’s motives for the attack were entirely political. Filippo, a young police officer who translates Philippa’s statement into Italian while she is being questioned, is the only one who believes this Englishwoman’s story. Filippo is, moreover, convinced that he and Philippa were made for each other.
Filippo manages to smuggle a tiny dictating machine in to the prisoner and begins secretly communicating with her. He uses the machine to make Philippa a proposition, evolving a plan that will help her regain her freedom. However, Philippa’s cell has been bugged and Pini, the superintendent in charge of the case soon gets wind of their plot. What Pini doesn’t know is that whole scheme is merely a ruse and Filippo has something else entirely in mind for the woman with whom he has fallen so deeply in love . . .
HEAVEN is both a thriller and a love story. It is a film about guilt, redemption and the overwhelming power of love. Tom Tykwer’s first international production is based on a screenplay written by the Polish director Krzysztof Kieslowski, who died in 1996. As Tom Tykwer comments:"I immersed myself in the screenplay as if it were my own. I was convinced that it touched on subjects that had concerned me in all my other films, except that this screenplay approached these topics in a way hitherto unknown to me. I was determined to take up the challenge of filming this script."
Father High Rise
Woman in Milkvan
Technicians Soundproof Room
Policeman chasing Ariel
Policeman crowded Street
Special Forces Police
Alberto Di Stasio
Stefania Orsola Garello
Matilde de Sanctis
Roberto D' Alessandro
First Assistant Director
Second Assistant Director
Third Assistant Director
First AD Turin
First AD Naples/Tuscany
Unit Production Manager
Assistant Production Manager
Assistant Location Manager
Set Production Assistants
Office Production Assistants
Agnès Mentré und Sydney Pollack
Gian Paolo Varani
Assistant Location Manager
Office Production Assistants
Set Production Assistants
Assistant to Ms. Köpf
Assistant to Mr. Arndt
Assistant to Mr. Schieder
Assistant Location Manager
Assistant Location Manager
Office Producton Assistants
Production Accountant Germany
Production Accountant Italy
Production Accountant Star Plex
Assistant Accountant Italy
Assistant Accountant Germany
Accounting Production Assistants
Post Production Accountant
Line Producers Coordinator
Assistants Crowd Marshall - Turin
Assistants Crowd Marshall - Naples
Assistant Crowd Marshall - Tuscany
Casting Extras - Tuscany
Stand-ins for Ms. Blanchett -Turin
Stand-in for Ms. Blanchett - Tuscany
Stand-in for Ms. Blanchett - Germany
Stand-in for Mr. Ribisi - Turin
Stand-in for Mr. Ribisi - Tuscany
Stand-in for Mr. Ribisi - Germany
Utility Stand-in – Germany
Miramax Production Executive
Assistant to Mr. Tykwer
Assistant to Mr. Horberg
Second Focus Puller
Video Assistant Operator
B Camera Focus Pullers
Second Unit Cameraman
Second Unit Focus Puller
Driver Camera Truck
Driver Camera Department
Best Boy Italy
Additional Electricians Italy
Rigging Crew Germany
Generator Operator Italy
Construction Lamp Rigs
Key Grip Turin / Germany
Key Grip Naples / Tuscany
Additional Grip Tuscany
SFX Supervisor Germany
SFX Supervisors Italy
Helicopters provided by
Catering and Craft Service
Assistants Costume Designer
Wardrobe Assistant Tuscany
Wardrobe Assistant Turin
Driver Wardrobe Department
Driver Wardrobe Truck
Make up Artist
Make up Assistant Germany
Make up Assistant Italy
Special FX Make up
Driver Make up Truck
Assistant Production Designer
Prop Master on Set
Prop Master Germany
rop Master Italy
Stand-by Props Trainees
Draftwomen / Model Makers
Transport Captain - Italy
Driver for Ms. Blanchett - Italy
Driver for Ms. Blanchett - Germany
Driver for Mr. Ribisi
Driver for Mr. Minghella
Driver for Mr. Horberg
Post Production Supervisor
ADR Potsdam Babelsberg
ADR Los Angeles
ADR New York
Assistant AVID Editor
Second Unit Mixer
Additional Mixer - Tuscany
Coordinator Post Production Sound
Post Production Sound Facility
Digital Special Effects
Artists CG Supervisor
Images computed with Mental ray
Titles and Visual Effects
Digital Film Scanning
ARRI Laser Film Recording
Additional Equipment Italy
Helicopter Training Facility
Visual Support Engineer
Uniforms provided by
Stage Acoustic Engineer
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Ermanno Di Febo Orsini
Verena Von Zobeltitz
Tina Fabiana Improta
Motiv+Casting Agentur Hollywupp
Just Publicity, Anke Zindler
Harry "Abu" Gröpler
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Gunther Kortwitch Film-Ton-Technik
A Conversation with Tom Tykwer
“I IMMERSED MYSELF IN THE SCRIPT AS IF IT WERE MINE”
Tykwer filming Kieslowski. How did you approach this?
The fact that it was a Kieslowski script was never a decisive factor, though I knew, if nothing else, it would be interesting and quality reading. Not necessarily the case with many of the scripts that come through the door. A script written by someone else ideally has to read as if I’d written it myself, or even better, as I wish I’d written it. But I’d never experienced that up until then. In all the scripts I’d read I’d never found a reason to invest two years of my life making it into a film. HEAVEN was of course of immediate interest since I was familiar with the writers and had a great deal of respect for them. But by page three I’d forgotten about all that. I was immersed in the story as if it were mine. I understood totally what it was getting at, not just on a literal level but also an implied, atmospheric level, quite apart from the moral conflict and narrative content. I identified with the original quality of the project, effortlessly. I had the overwhelming feeling that the script was dealing with subjects that I’d tackled in earlier films, but in a way I hadn’t thought of before. It represented a challenge I had to take on.
What was the specific reason you felt personally addressed by the story in HEAVEN?
There was a mood, an atmosphere, contained in the script that immediately moved me. Even while reading it I began to picture a world, a cosmos that opened up before me. I never get that with other people´s scripts. Usually I get the feeling I’m simply expected to illustrate the words of another person. With HEAVEN I never felt I’d just be the illustrator of an alien idea, not for a moment. I internalized the script right away and began to think visually. I immediately thought of Cate Blanchett as the female lead. At that stage it was no more than a crazy notion, which developed into a fixed idea. The insane thing was that it actually came about. Cate was sent the script and two weeks later she’d agreed. That was not only unbelievable, it was a bit spooky. The dynamic that took hold of the project was staggering. Everything got going very quickly. I should also say here that I was still in the post-production stage of THE PRINCESS AND THE WARRIOR, a film about two people who find their way to one another via a tortured path and learn to love one another. One of them, in this case the woman, takes on the guiding role as to who teaches whom to love. Someone who has retreated from the world and donned an emotional straight jacket can only re-expose themselves to intensive emotion with great fervor and stamina. And of course that’s a clear motif in HEAVEN. Of course the roles are reversed here and the setting is radically different, giving the film a quite different feel.
Did the two projects in some way influence one another?
It was exciting for me to take a contrasting perspective. Not just vis-à-vis the gender role reversal but also the constellation of events which is, if anything, more hopeless and disastrous. That’s what makes Kieslowski and Piesewicz such brilliant writers. With them, very simple initial elements can lead to devastatingly tangled complications. As the viewer you become desperately concerned that the heroes, whom the film forces you to draw close to, manage to free themselves from their situation. The really great thing is to see with what simple strokes the story has been drafted. There’s a woman who makes an unforgivable mistake. She kills innocent people. Nevertheless she remains pivotal to the film. Watching her gradual evolution we are compelled to develop an understanding for her and the transformation she undergoes. That‘s an enormous challenge, since she’s a character from whom we’d normally distance ourselves morally. We’ve tried to make a film that overcomes any moral distancing and opens our hearts to people who appear to be lost.
Did HEAVEN interest you because another writer had dealt with similar subject matter in a way that you would probably never have done?
Certainly I get the distinct feeling that it’s a script that I always wanted to write but never did. It filled out an area of my subject matter in a way that I’d always been looking for. Many crucial things tend to be overlooked when viewed purely from a personal perspective. I felt I suddenly had access to an objective viewpoint that would take me down a path I’d never been before. It’s also important to know that Anthony Minghella and I together extensively revised and rewrote the script. Anthony regards himself primarily as a writer, and then a director. I saw that clearly while working with him and profited a lot by it. With him, I had another opportunity to delve into the story till I’d internalized it and made it my own. There was never a particularly strong inclination during the production to refer to Kieslowski and Piesewicz, just the underlying premise never to forget them. But it was always intended to be an independently made film, portraying a genuine vision. The execution of a final will and testament was the last thing we had in mind.
You used the locations cited in the original draft. Was there a specific reason that HEAVEN take place in Italy?
Again, that was another thing that went without saying. Just as it was clear to me early on that THE PRINCESS AND THE WARRIOR had to be set in Wuppertal or that Lola had to run through Berlin, or that WINTER SLEEPERS belonged in southern Germany, HEAVEN had to be set in Italy. That had to do with a kind of spiritual presence of a place. The reference to theological matters and the transcendent in this film could not have been better located than in Italy, especially in such a geometrically disturbing city like Turin. In addition, Turin has always been a center for the occult and for sects – of every hue.
I wanted to contrast that with the lyrical power of the Tuscan countryside, which has something extremely melancholic but also very liberating about it. When the characters arrive in Tuscany we sense that things gain a clarity that wasn’t there before. In Turin, where the film begins, darkness and negativity still dominates.
The epitome of a grey industrial city.
But it’s also an unbelievably interesting and architecturally beautiful city, which I believe is totally underrepresented in cinema. I always loved that about ROCCO AND HIS BROTHERS, that here was a film that showed Turin in greater detail. There are the same complicated contrasts that exist in Wuppertal. A highly industrial and blue-collar world located in the middle of an ancient city. In spite of all the modern developments the atmosphere of centuries past is everywhere. The craziest thing for me about Turin was the discovery of the almost brutal geometric severity of this city, which I really became aware of when we flew over the city in a helicopter. You could just about place a kind of crushing steel grid over the city, which of course imprisons the heroes in the film. They not only have to escape from prison but also from the city, which because of its structure just won’t seem to let go. By contrast, the Tuscan landscape is the complete opposite, the gentle rolling hills with their interweaving colours are a metaphor for an almost boundless expanse.
The journey of the main characters through darkness into light is also emphasized by the lighting.
Yes, we used filters on the material where appropriate. My cameraman Frank Griebe and I did a lot of experimenting with lighting, hunting for new and different nuances that would propel the film from harshness and violence toward a softer, smoother, more open and more colourful, shifting narrative style. We spent a long time thinking about how to create a palpable shift from one mood and style to another without being too obvious.
And thereby mirroring Philippa’s personal evolution?
Both characters, in fact. Of course the central notion is the liberation of a woman who sees the world in frozen patterns, and the triumph over negativity.
And you had Cate Blanchett in mind from the very beginning?
I imagine it probably had a lot to do with the fact that her face possesses the potential for that kind of emotional spectrum. Cate’s physical presence is ambiguity incarnate. It’s incredible how demanding she is to photograph, her face is somehow so evanescent, constantly on the verge of change. In addition there are very few people around who are so in command of their emotional presence, their personal aura, the interplay between iron control and the unleashing of emotion. That’s important because it also defines the character she’s playing, a person in an almost obsessive state, about to commit a premeditated crime, which is justified from her own way of thinking. When she allows feelings and love back into her life, her view of the world changes.
Cate Blanchett is, for those on the outside, certainly a more obvious choice than Giovanni Ribisi is for the role of Filippo.
The film relies heavily on the presence of these two, and we always knew that the film would stand or fall on their chemistry. As regards definite casting ideas Giovanni Ribisi was the first actor I met, since he simply turned up at my door one day when I was in Dortmund for the mixing of THE PRINCESS AND THE WARRIOR. I was preoccupied and just wanted to talk to him for ten minutes or so. In fact it turned into a three-hour, incredibly intensive discussion. I had the feeling that I saw Filippo sitting there in front of me. I had a hard time believing, however, that the first actor I met could be the right choice and in my efforts to be certain I met dozens upon dozens of actors, many of the very interesting, but I didn’t find my Filippo among them. Obviously I had to go through that whole process in order to be convinced that my very first impression was right after all. Giovanni’s gentle determination, his calm decisiveness and insistence really predestined him for that part. At some stage that’s exactly how I felt – I had the distinct impression that Giovanni read the script as an actor in much the same way as I had as a director.
Was it a given that you would work with your usual team, Frank Griebe as cameraman and Mathilde Bonnefoy as editor?
First of all I wouldn’t have made the film if X Filme hadn’t produced it. Working together with Maria Köpf, Stefan Arndt and Manuela Stehr was one of our basic preconditions. These also included the premise that HEAVEN would be made on our terms and according to our artistic parameters. Which for me also meant working alongside my most trusted people. In fact it was after we finished this film that I realized how much I want to hold onto this group. It was together with this team that I’d matured and developed, working with them on my films. I need these people in order to understand what I want to do in a film. It’s through Frank, for example, that I understand why an image evokes a particular mood. It’s through set designer Uli Hanisch that I can see why an atmosphere in specific space needs a specific colour. And Mathilde has shown me why a film is in fact written after filming, not before.
It was also the longest post-production up till now.
Actually post-production wasn’t that much longer than with RUN LOLA RUN or WINTER SLEEPERS. THE PRINCESS AND THE WARRIOR only went faster because we had to step on the gas to be able to start on HEAVEN. In principle you normally have to reckon on about a year of post-production. But yes, I admit this did take a bit longer than usual to cut, for the simple reason that we wanted the film to be as precise and concise as possible. We didn’t want it to become garrulous at any point. It was the clarity of the script that fascinated me from the beginning. To formulate something so complicated and so contradictory in clear language is the biggest challenge in making a film, and it took a correspondingly long time. We’d shot footage that distracted from that clarity and focus, and it had to be ditched. We had to give HEAVEN the purity it deserved. It was a reflection of Mathilde’s courage and ability that she urged me to cut even quite spectacular material and pare the film back to its essence. The film couldn’t have been more compressed or clear.
What were you able to glean about this from an old hand like Sydney Pollack – who finished so many films in his career within the space of a few weeks in order to keep to strict starting schedules?
Yes, he tells those stories, and it still blows me away. He confessed to me once that some of his films probably would have been a quarter of an hour shorter if he’d had more time in the cutting room. Of course working so fast also compels him to focus on the essentials. He knows instantly where there’s been a bad cut or where a diversionary tactic begins. In detailed ‘detective’ work he’s unbelievably quick. He goes straight to the heart of problem areas without any kind of school master airs. He purges the film with a wave of a hand, without being a know-all. Anthony Minghella took on the role of the ‘European thoughtful advisor’. He knows what it’s like when someone tries to tell the filmmaker how the film should look. He proved to be extraordinarily sensitive in this area. He gave Mathilde and myself the necessary prompting at the right times without ever attempting to blur our handiwork.
Some of the music from HEAVEN is, again, written by you. The proportion of non-tailor-made music is, however, greater than in your previous productions.
Most of it’s by Arvo Pärt. His music came up during the production phase when director’s assistant Sebastian Fahr played me the new record by Arvo Pärt, “Alina”. I liked it a lot but I was worried that it might make the film too ‘soft’. It was only when we were cutting that I realized that the works by Arvo Pärt, while graceful and tender, are also very strict with regard to organization and structure. That’s exactly what we were aiming at in the film, to make it tender, emotional and human but also give it very clear contours. We noticed that Pärt’s music helped us keep a clear overview and not lose that clarity, which the music in fact intensified. In the cutting room we used the music to such an extent that it became obvious that no other music could even begin to compete.
Where does HEAVEN stand in regard to your own development?
I’m still too close to HEAVEN to make a judgement on that. I spent a lot of time wrestling and battling with this film, in the best sense of the word. I’m still feeling the after effects of working at that intensity. I have a really good feeling about this film, in some way. I’ll have to see how that develops and, in hindsight, what that might mean for my next projects. But I still have no idea what’s coming up. I’m now going to take a break. After making four films in a row this is my first chance to take stock, have enough for time for myself to read more than just one book a month. I’m absolutely determined to really stop and re-order my thoughts, which are really pre-occupying me at the moment.
Interview by Thomas Schultze, November 2001