Nicolas Roeg’s “Cold Heaven”

A profoundly Catholic reversal of Vertigo?

I am very familiar with Roeg’s work and nothing here is atypical in the context of his filmography, so why did I end up so surprised and fascinated with this film in particular? At the beginning I was more bothered than interested, a very simple plot is presented but the movie seems to deny its development with each subsequent scene, the drama of marital problems soon gets overshadowed by indications of a more fantastic story driven by the protagonist’s attempt to deal with guilt, so the tone is ill-defined (and over the top) from the start and the sudden intrusion of the supernatural obscures even more the movie’s direction, it’s just too hermetic and impenetrable to captivate at first (those typical elements in Roeg I shouldn’t estrange, especially considering his brilliant past collaborations with Theresa Russell), until it ignored anything resembling a more grounded drama and, again, challenged my expectations. This is a straight narrative, but as usual for the director, even when he eschews fragmentation, a mysterious space is left where the real motivations of the characters are hidden, their actions aren’t justified by reasonable causality, it starts embracing more and more the protagonist’s extraordinary experiences in a very visceral way (no matter how absurd they can get) and the result is a movie that’s pure emotional confrontation that in its final minutes turns into some kind of apotheosis of film melodrama.

It is the first melodrama I watch from Roeg and it’s surprising I had never noticed how his inclinations are absolutely appropriate for the demands of the genre, and of course, I should have figured that out since Don’t Look Now, because what really stayed in my memory were exactly these aspects, Cold Heaven is just the logical conclusion. I still don’t know if it’s an overlooked masterpiece or if I’m being too kind to the film for its peculiarity and overt conviction of what needs to be shown (which is a rare thing), beyond good or bad, this is truly exceptional and rather beautiful.

Christofer Pallú

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