The Discovery of Heaven


I went to a preview screening in London on Monday night, a film of Harry Mulisch's The Discovery of Heaven. The Dutch gave the film a royal gala opening, it has been a number one hit in the Benelux countries, but has yet to find a distributor in the UK. This despite the fact that it stars Stephen Fry and Greg Wise at acting peaks, has a bright and intelligent script and cast, some wonderful locations, and always looks extremely beautiful. Quite a compelling evening in the cinema.

It makes me blanche that even such a high-powered production can't find an outlet in Britain. I believe it's because the film does not fit neatly into any genre. It starts like a horror movie, has the ever present ravens of an Edgar Allen Poe creation, includes a tricycle sequence like the one in The Shining, but isn't actually a horror movie. It is metaphysical, but that term of course carries too much sense of philosophy for mass appeal. It's depiction of heaven has all the darkness of the Jesuits so I can see even that challenges people's perceptions more than they find comfortable - heaven is dark and the earth resolutely sunny with some wonderful and warm people in it. It makes you plump for life on earth if given the choice.

I read in Derek jarman's diary a lament that film critics in the UK all come from the Eng Lit school and have no training in visual appreciation at all. He claimed to know no novelists and be glad of the fact. I have always looked at his films through that same Eng Lit trained eye ... loving the colours and beauty and light and framing and arrangement, but ultimately only wanting more narrative. From The Discovery of Heaven I recognize that we maybe need more training so we know how to accommodate something so different to the standard (substandard!) fair. The film was inspiring - it gave me fresh confidence that I should dare to be different in my work. I was up and writing at 3am, squeezing out 76 fresh words for my ongoing novel Cromozone - enough to have freed the story and brought it back to life.

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