Viennale 2014 – Day 9: Heaven Knows What

Heaven Knows WhatHeaven Knows What
USA 2014
Written by Ronald Bronstein & Joshua Safdie, inspired by a book written by Arielle Holmes
Directed by Ben Safdie & Joshua Safdie

After “Sorg og Glaede” there was a Q&A with the director. I stayed for a while, but then I had to leave in order to catch my next screening – at a different venue. A decision that I started to regret almost immediately after the movie started, and even though it got better and won me back a little bit, I still wish I would have stayed and listened to the rest of the Q&A with Nils Malmros instead of watching this.

Which is not to say that it is a bad and/or worthless movie. Continuing my theme of glimpsing into “worlds” unknown to me, I liked the parts of the movie that dealt with drug abuse, and what it does to those poor, lost souls portrayed here – especially Harley. Going through her days in a dazed state of mind, almost constantly craving her next fix, always needing more and more to get any sort of kick out of it… it’s a dire, bleak and depressing existence. I also enjoyed most of the performances, especially Arielle Holmes (Caleb Landry Jones was very good too, as usual, but I just had too much problems with his character to really enjoy his performance).

Unfortunately, the movie pretty much already lost me in the first couple of minutes, thanks to the annoying, ear-piercing music that almost had me get up and leave, as well as Harleys desperate attempts to win Ilya back. I just don’t get abusive relationships, I’m sorry. I hoped that after he dared her to kill herself she would finally have enough and get over him, but no, just a couple of days later she ended up under his spell again. I’m not saying that something like that doesn’t happen in the real world – I know that it does. But I really had a hard time understanding what made her come back to him all the time, and with their relationship in general – which also made it hard for me to connect with any of the main characters.

This is also not one of those movies where the characters go through some sort of personal or emotional growth. Everyone pretty much stays the same throughout – which in my mind makes it a little pointless. Also, the ending was rather sudden, and also a bit weird. [Spoiler-Alert!] Why did he leave her on the bus? Also, the bit were just a couple of hours later gets burned alive rang untrue to me. It almost felt like some sort of punishment from God?!?![End Spoilers]. Overall, in my opinion, “Heaven Knows What” is a difficult movie to enjoy, because it’s just so bleak. And I really wish they would have made the characters a little more accessible to make it easier for me to find my way into the movie. But despite my annoyance in the first couple of minutes (mostly due to that godawful noise that I guess some people call music), I didn’t regret watching it. I just regret missing the rest of the “Sorg og Glaede” Q&A because of it.


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