- X 2019
The Discovery of Heaven
De Ontdekking van de Hemel
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
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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.
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.