Krzysztof Kieslowski sure had a knack for timing. Trois Couleurs: Rouge, the last film he made before his death, in 1997, ended with a ferry disaster. When the film was released, a similar tragedy occurred in the Baltic Sea. Heaven, adapted by Tom Tykwer from a script by Kieslowski and his (still living) collaborator Krzysztof Piesiewicz, opens with the bombing of an office building that’s all too reminiscent of September 11. But beyond that eerie echo, the late filmmaker’s gift for discerning eerie connections and the ironic vagaries of destiny seems to have faltered, or perhaps something was lost in passing the legacy to the talented but still unformed Tykwer.
Not that Heaven is without rewards — it is visually rapturous and often haunting, effects that can be attributed in part to close-ups of the angelic Cate Blanchett. Her Philippa is an English teacher in Torino and the woman responsible for the bombing. It was intended to blow up a drug dealer responsible for the deaths of her husband and some of her students, but through one of those Kieslowskian twists of fate (a cleaning lady) the bomb kills four innocents, and Philippa’s remorse moves Filippo (Giovanni Ribisi), one of the carabinieri interrogating her, to fall in love. Philippa and Filippo? Hmm. At a certain point coincidence becomes contrivance, and the rigors of penance and redemption suggested by the lofty title slip by without leaving much of a mark. Nonetheless, moments here recall the eloquence of Kieslowski at his best. Others remind us of how much he will be missed. (97 minutes)