Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Review: 'Deadpool' Starring Ryan Reynolds, T.J. Miller, Morena Baccarin, Ed Skrein, And Gina Carano Review: 'Deadpool' Starring Ryan Reynolds, T.J. Miller, Morena Baccarin, Ed Skrein, And Gina Carano How Quentin Tarantino & Robert Rodriguez Made Josh Brolin's 'No Country For Old Men' Audition Tape How Quentin Tarantino & Robert Rodriguez Made Josh Brolin's 'No Country For Old Men' Audition Tape 'MacGyver' Movie Reboot And New TV Series Pilot On The Way 'MacGyver' Movie Reboot And New TV Series Pilot On The Way Josh Brolin Says He's Starring With Jessica Chastain In A Movie About George Jones & Tammy Wynette Josh Brolin Says He's Starring With Jessica Chastain In A Movie About George Jones & Tammy Wynette Watch: Robert Richardson Explains Why He Took His Name Off 'World War Z' And More In 58-Minute Cinematographer Talk Watch: Robert Richardson Explains Why He Took His Name Off 'World War Z' And More In 58-Minute Cinematographer Talk George Miller Says He Originally Wanted The Music In 'Mad Max: Fury Road' To Only Come From The Doof Warrior George Miller Says He Originally Wanted The Music In 'Mad Max: Fury Road' To Only Come From The Doof Warrior Stephen King Says Stanley Kubrick's 'The Shining' Is "Like A Big, Beautiful Cadillac With No Engine Inside It" Stephen King Says Stanley Kubrick's 'The Shining' Is "Like A Big, Beautiful Cadillac With No Engine Inside It" Review: Coen Brothers' 'Hail, Caesar!' Starring Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton, And More Review: Coen Brothers' 'Hail, Caesar!' Starring Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton, And More Naomi Watts Confirmed For David Lynch’s ‘Twin Peaks’ Revival; Tom Sizemore Joins Cast Naomi Watts Confirmed For David Lynch’s ‘Twin Peaks’ Revival; Tom Sizemore Joins Cast Watch: Quentin Tarantino Talks 5 Movies To Watch Before 'The Hateful Eight' In 7-Minute Video Watch: Quentin Tarantino Talks 5 Movies To Watch Before 'The Hateful Eight' In 7-Minute Video The 25 Most Anticipated New TV Shows Of 2016 The 25 Most Anticipated New TV Shows Of 2016 The 20 Best Documentaries Of 2015 The 20 Best Documentaries Of 2015 The 20 Best Films Of 2015 The 20 Best Films Of 2015 The 25 Best Action Movies Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Action Movies Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Comedies Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Comedies Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Sci-Fi Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Sci-Fi Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Animated Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Animated Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 50 Best Films Of The Decade So Far The 50 Best Films Of The Decade So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far Terry Gilliam Talks The "Simplistic" Films Of Steven Spielberg, Dumbing Down Of Audiences, 'Don Quixote' Start Date & More Terry Gilliam Talks The "Simplistic" Films Of Steven Spielberg, Dumbing Down Of Audiences, 'Don Quixote' Start Date & More

ND/NF '12 Review: 'Hemel' Takes An Unflinching Look At Broken Sexuality

The Playlist By Gabe Toro | The Playlist March 26, 2012 at 2:05PM

Within the very first moments of "Hemel," a couple writhe naked in bed. Their playful banter and back-and-forth focuses on the unsubstantial equipment, which he laughs off with only a slightly bruised ego. It's only when he starts to rag on her pubic hair that she begins to unravel, disappointed that her lover would complain about tasting her hair. Within moments, he's lathering her with shaving cream, lovingly running the blade up and down between her legs. As he walks off to wash, she lies on her back, completely barren. She's fine being nude, but it's clear she hates being vulnerable.
0
Hemel

Within the very first moments of "Hemel," a couple writhe naked in bed. Their playful banter and back-and-forth focuses on the unsubstantial equipment, which he laughs off with only a slightly bruised ego. It's only when he starts to rag on her pubic hair that she begins to unravel, disappointed that her lover would complain about tasting her hair. Within moments, he's lathering her with shaving cream, lovingly running the blade up and down between her legs. As he walks off to wash, she lies on her back, completely barren. She's fine being nude, but it's clear she hates being vulnerable.

In Dutch helmer Sacha Polak's film, which screened over the weekend as part of New Directors/New Films, the striking Hanna Hoekstra plays the title character of "Hemel," which translates to "Heaven." Her name already suggests a closeness to her parents, though it's eventually learned that she knows little of her mother, who passed on at an early age, leading to a closeness with her father Gijs, an older gentleman with a curious hunger for young women. Heaven drifts from man to man, demanding sex, and then a very particular sort of closeness afterwards that few can provide, aside from good old Dad.

"Hemel" unfolds in several chapters as Heaven unravels, clearly seeking a place to belong. While the film hammers this point home with a singleminded determination, it's still fascinating to see the many personal dramas played out when Heaven visits the son of one of her father's paramours on his eighteenth birthday. While she does not flirt with the grown boy, she chastises him for waiting until marriage to consummate, before drunkenly spilling details about her own bedroom life. We slowly start to realize the loneliness of this sex addict when its revealed that she hasn't seen this boy in years. 

Gijs watches his daughter disintegrate with a level of bemused love and casual indifference. A renaissance man of sorts (he's seen running an art house, practicing trumpet and generally being a man about town), he spends the bulk of his time taking in a series of lovers, many much younger than he, some close to his own daughter's age. The women have no qualms with this, but it allows Heaven to exploit the common ground and test them, turning her father's affections into a prize. This naturally occurs after each of her own dalliances have ended -- it seems that for her, all roads lead back to Daddy.

"Hemel" focuses on Heaven's struggles to control her sexuality, failing her fickle nature and chasing consistently older men, until its last third. It's when we see the closeness between her and her father. It's purely an emotional attachment between the two of them, but Polak plays that one note a bit too stringently, obscuring Heaven's struggles by boiling her issues down to a mundane Elektra Complex. When given a chance to open a window into Heaven's identity, Polak instead closes it, reducing Hoekstra to play an affliction rather than a character. "Hemel" is sharply realized in fits and starts, but its this lack of psychological depth that robs the film of its potential considerable dimension. [B]

This article is related to: New Directors/New Films, Review


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates