Tears in Heaven

in 62nd Berlinale - Berlin International Film Festival

by Bettina Schuler

Hemel is an attractive young woman, always living on the edge. Whatever she does – drinking, talking, fucking — she is doing it in an extreme way, hoping she will finally feel herself. The only person she belongs to is her father, a good-looking businessman who is also unable to have a normal relationship with someone. He resorts to treating Hemel like his wife, not his daughter, and his current lovers are always the odd ones out. No wonder that love doesn’t have any meaning for Hemel. Sex is for her the only chance to get a moment of closeness. But her fragile world is running the risk of going completely down the drain when her father is falling in love for the first time.

Sounds like a story we have seen many times: A young woman adoring her father and a father who can’t leave his little girl alone. Two lost souls having sex with anybody hoping to find some love. But in her movie Hemel (Hemel) Dutch director Sacha Polak manages to tell us this common story in an unusual way, not only by only suggesting the erotic relationship between father and daughter, but also by choosing the incredible actress Hannah Hoekstra for the part of Hemel. It’s rare to see an actress performing in such an intensive and convincing way. She always appears like an erratic animal searching for a home. And when she is having sex with someone it seems that she is fighting for her right to be alive.

But Hemel is not only a disordered young woman with a malfunctioning father-daughter relationship. She is also a symbol for a generation having a lot of problems to find their own sexuality because mass media makes them believe that everybody has to be so sexy like a porno star: a generation sharing, on the one hand, videos with their friends on YouPorn, but, on the other hand, so intimidated by sexual freedom that they are unable to feel their own limits. It’s a generation under pressure from the achievements of the sexual revolution as represented by Hemel’s father.

Hemel means ‘heaven’ in Dutch. If this is heaven then hell can’t be any worse.