13 February 2003 | robertllr
A good film with a neat "punch line"
After reading the other tepid reviews and comments, I felt I had to come to bat for this movie.
Roeg's films tend to have little to do with one another, and expecting this one to be like one of his you liked is probably off the mark.
What this film is is a thoughtful and unabashed look at religious faith. The only other film like it-in terms of its religious message-would have to be Tolkin's `The Rapture.'
I am astonished that anyone could say the story is muddled or supernatural. It is a simple movie about Catholic faith, miracles, and redemption--though you would never guess it till the end. It is also the only movie I can think of whose resolution turns, literally, on a pun.
As a (happily) fallen Catholic myself, I know what the movie is about, and I find a sort of fondness in its ultimate innocence about the relation between God and man. But if you are not familiar with the kind of theology on which the film is based, then it will go right over you head.
As a film-as opposed to a story-`Cold Heaven' it is not ground-breaking. While `The Rapture' is heavy with pictorial significance and cinematic imagery, `Cold Heaven' downplays its own cinematic qualities. There are no striking shots, no edgy effects, no attempts to fit the content to the form. It is workmanlike shooting, but subdued. Nor does it have dialogue or acting to put it in a class of high drama. It is a simple story that unfolds simply. It may seem odd; but at the end the mystery is revealed. It looks ambiguous; but with a single line the ambiguity vanishes in a puff of Catholic dogma.
In this regard, `Cold Heaven' has at its heart exactly the same sort of thing that drives a movie like `The Sting,' or `The Sixth Sense,' or `Final Descent,' or Polanski's `A Pure Formality.' All of these are films with a trick up their sleeves. They may frustrate you along the way, but they have a point-an obvious one, indeed--but the fun is, at least in part, in having been taken in.
Still, even if it seems like little more than a shaggy dog story with a punch line, it is worth watching for way it directs-and misdirects-you. Try it-especially if you are, or have ever been, a Catholic.