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The Discovery of Heaven
De Ontdekking van de Hemel

Netherlands/UK 2001
produced by
Ate de Jong for Meespierson Film, Mulholland Pictures
directed by Jeroen Krabbé
starring Stephen Fry, Greg Wise, Flora Montgomery, Neil Nowbon, Dimitris Philippou, Jeroen Krabbé, Viv Weatherall, Maureen Lipman, Emma Fielding, Diana Quick, Victoria Carling, Lois de Jong, Geraldine Alexander, Nicholas Palliser, Gillian Barge, John Franklyn-Robbins, Rob van de Meeberg, Nettie Blanken, Sean Harris, Molly Hallam, Inday Ba, Javier Lago, Timothy Bateson, Sheila Sahnd Gibbs, Marjolein Sligte, Clive Merrison, Monique van de Ven, Lars Oostveen (as Lawrence Ray), Philip Bowen, Terence Harvey, Daniel Boissevain, Sarah Winman, Simon Greiff, Ellen Vogel, Harry Landis
screenplay by Edwin de Vries, based on the novel by Harry Mulisch, music by Henny Vrienten

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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God decides to deny mankind any further support, but in order to achieve that he needs back the original stone tablets containing the 10 Commandments. Thing is though that he can't just send an angel down to earth to fetch them because angels aren't allowed to visit earth, so he has them create a mortal man to do his bidding ...

Onno (Stephen Fry) and Max (Greg Wise) meet rather by chance (controlled by the angels of course) in the late 1960's and become the best of friends right away, living their lives somewhere between the jet set and socialist agitators. They both meet and fall in love with cellist Ada (Flora Montgomery), and while she first prefers Max, she ultimately marries Onno and gets pregnant (though it's not clear from whom). Before giving birth though, she has a car accident and falls into a (permanent) coma. The boy, Quinten, God's chosen one to return the tablets, is saved though, and while he regards Onno as his father, he grows up with Max and Ada's mother (Diana Quick), in a castle where all kinds of weirdos teach Quinten all sorts of different things.

All grown up, Quinten meets his dad (?) Onno again after years of seperation, and the two try to solve some kind of cosmic riddle that eventually leads them to a church in Rome to steal the stone tablets, and to Jerusalem, to the spot from where to deliver the tablets to heaven ... but wouldn't you know it, almost at the end of his journey, Quinten is unwilling to fulfill his mission/destiny, and it's only when the angels threaten to kill Onno that he gives in and sacrifices himself and the tablets for his father. With the tablets back with God ... nothing happens actually.

 

Not at all uninteresting but ultimately overlong dark religious fantasy that at times tries too hard to make its plot work like a clockwork, is a little slow in buildup, and a bit too heterogenous in style: While the first half resembles Francois Truffaut's Jules et Jim too closely to be a coincidence, the second half wanders around rather aimlessly for a while before transforming in a suspense-free wild goose chase that culminates rather abruptly in an unsatisfactory ending. Now you might argue that the film was based on a 900-page novel (which I haven't read I must confess) that was considered unfilmable, and compared to that, director Jeroen Krabbé has done a fine job bringing the book to screen anyways - to which I can only answer, maybe it wasn't such a fine idea to adapt the book as a feature film in the first place. And Krabbé's direction might be competent and even atmospheric at times, but it can hardly be considered inventive or risk-taking.

That all said, despite its narrative shortcomings, Discovery of Heaven is not a bad film as such - and that's mainly due to another great performance by the always dependable Stephen Fry, who beautifully carries the film through all of its highs and lows and makes it enjoyable enough to watch after all.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Robots and rats,
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love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

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Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
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a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.

 

Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner

 

Out now from
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On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD