2 February 2001 | Carlo Houtkamp
Gripping, thought-provoking and entertaining too.
Sur la Terre comme au Ciel is a very gripping film. Marion Hansel and the script writers have taken a surrealist point of departure in order to tell a thought-provoking and moving story which is not void of social criticism.
A single woman named Maria, played wonderfully by Carmen Maura, is happy to be pregnant. One day, when she is at the doctor's, she talks to an inconsolable young woman whose unborn baby has told her he does not want to be born. Nobody believes her. Only a while later, Maria hears her own baby in the womb uttering the same refusal, and this is the beginning of a chain of haunting events. As she starts to realize that all babies in the world object to being born because the world has become commonplace for violence, hate and cruelty, she meets with a wall of disbelief and disrespect. Most people regard her as a paranoid schizophrenic, a raving emotional wreck. Very strong in this context is the scene where Maria, by surprise, is placed in a discussion forum on a televised talk show and makes no disguise of her fears.
Very successfully Hansel has interwoven social comment through this drama/thriller. Without patronizing or pouring out gallons of gloom over the viewer she makes one good point after the other. There is comic relief too from time to time, and there is a sense of hope for the future. Next to Maura's character and her young friend Tom, there is depth even to the minor characters. A great moment in the film is where Maria meets with a former physicist who has parted with his profession because he has seen with his own eyes that scientists are going way too far when it comes to genetic research and - engineering.
Marion Hansel's strong directing is reinforced by good writing, a strong cast, a good steady camera crew and a haunting soundtrack that sets the mood right from the opening titles. If there is ever going to be an American remake of this film, M. Night Shyamalan or Robert Zemeckis would be appropriate directors for the project, but Marion Hansel herself is the one to call on first.