DVD. Arrow Films.
when cyber thrillers were all the rage – with filmmakers,
if not audiences? Gilles Marchand’s Black Heaven
is a return to the genre, albeit with a more modern twist, and
almost pulls off the seemingly impossible task of making
online activity sexy.
When gawky youth Gaspard (Gregoire Leprince-Ringuet) and cute
girlfriend Marion (Pauline Etienne) find a mobile phone in a beach
hut, they investigate the messages on it and are intrigued enough
with the mysterious content to turn up for a meeting between the
mysterious Sam and her caller Dragon. Following the pair, they
watch as they buy hardware supplies and drive out into the countryside.
After finally catching up with them, the young couple’s
fun game of espionage turns serious as they discover a car filled
with exhaust fumes. Dragon is dead, and Sam is barely alive. Gaspard
pockets a video camera that has been filming their final moments
before calling the police.
Soon afterwards, Gaspard and his buddies visit the home of a drug
dealer, only to find that Sam – real name Audrey (Louise
Bourgoin) – is his sister. Gaspard, already becoming fixated
on the suicide video, finds himself drawn to the mysterious and
seductive woman, and soon discovers that her tattoo is a reference
to a private fetish community that exists in a Second
Life-style online world called Black Hole. Before long,
he has entered the game himself and finds his life being taken
over by the woman who seems fixated on death, and who attracts
those who want to die in real life, as well as virtually.
Heaven opens very well – the unfolding mystery
and tension builds steadily, as Gaspard finds himself sucked into
a world that he is ill prepared for. But things start to become
less interesting in the middle. The online game footage looks
authentic enough, but that’s not a good thing in a feature
film – when large chunks of story take place in a poorly
animated CGI world, it’s difficult to really give a damn
about what is happening to the characters who are both physically
and vocally (because the characters have their own voices) flat.
As the story takes a twist towards the end, the necessity of this
online footage becomes apparent (and you’ll retrospectively
recognise clues dropped in earlier) – but it makes it no
more interesting. What’s more, it’s hard to really
relate to Gaspard, who is far too bland to make a sympathetic
hero, or Audrey, who you just can’t see finding this dopey
character at all interesting and who is too vague a character
to make a effective femme fatale.
Thankfully, the film picks up for a final act that, although riddled
with holes, at least pulls things together and raises the tension
levels – though it has to be said that the ending is unfortunately
quite weak, lacking the emotional punch that it needs.
Black Heaven is a decent effort, with enough
positive elements to make it worth checking out. But as both a
cyber thriller and a Lynchian, darkly erotic tale of innocence
corrupted, it doesn’t quite achieve its potential. In the
end, it’s a decent stab at doing something original that
is let down by elements that are, unfortunately, essential to
the final story but that grind it to a halt unless you know what
is to come. I imagine a second viewing might actually be more
interesting for this reason..
IT NOW (UK)
IT NOW (USA)