Written and Directed by: Ian Powell
Starring: Alexander Bracq, Denton Lethe, and Maximo Salvo
Reviewed by: Brett G.
“Selling your body doesn‘t mean selling your soul.”
If anything, you’ve got to hand it to Breaking Glass Pictures for giving just about any movie a chance. Through their various labels, they’ve delivered a variety of bizarre cinema that otherwise wouldn’t have seen the light of the day. They’ve even opened the door for gay cinema with their QC label, and their latest offering here is Seeing Heaven, a subversive attempt to show the horrors and emptiness of sexual promiscuity.
Paul is a male hustler who turns tricks on a nightly basis, and not just for the money; instead, he does so because he is able to see intense, bizarre visions when he has sex with total strangers. These involve images of a mysterious masked man that Paul believes holds the key to finding his long-lost brother, from whom he was separated from as a child. Paul gets involved with a shady group of characters, including a porn producer who desires to make “real art,” and everyone is sent down a path of depravity and self-discovery.
A tedious melodrama with only some minor horror elements, Seeing Heaven talks a whole lot and says very little. It attempts to flex some intellectual muscle by throwing out literary and historical references, and there are heavy-handed themes galore, but it all adds up to dull, repetitive nonsense. It plays out as a decently-budgeted soap-opera, complete with banal dialogue, silly plot twists, and annoying characters. I suppose it’s appropriate that one of the film’s major themes is the emptiness of sex, because the narrative isn’t very full itself, despite being over-wrought. Essentially a series of softcore sex scenes punctuated by weird imagery, the film overstays its welcome by dragging out its only intriguing aspect: the nature of Paul’s visions and nightmares, which are actually kind of visually striking the first five or so times you see them.
Not surprisingly, even that revelation fails to deliver, as the film takes a hard right turn with some third act gang rape and psychological torture. It isn’t nearly as horrific as it sounds, as it makes little sense and is so too awkwardly handled to take seriously. Its status as a gay film is likely a point of interest, but nothing besides the aesthetic is particularly noteworthy. The film deals in some pretty universal themes, such as self-discovery through self-loathing and the destruction of innocence, though one has to wonder just how innocent Paul is considering he’s a male prostitute (it's also more than a little bizarre that he justifies his whoring around as an attempt to come closer to his brother, but that's neither here nor there).
In the end, such shallow and trite themes are wrapped up in a narrative that just feels weird for the sake of being weird. While I’m sure everyone involved was making an honest effort at making a brave film, they didn’t make a very coherent or interesting one. Still, that didn’t stop Breaking Glass from giving the film a decent DVD release, as the final disc includes an anamorphic widescreen transfer and 2.0 stereo sound along with some deleted scenes, a behind-the-scenes video diary, and cast and crew interviews. Don’t expect to see heaven at all if you check this one out; instead, it’s more like a trip to the vast emptiness of purgatory, where you’re going to be left wanting more either way. Trash it!
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