It Must Be Heaven is not an easy film to write about. That is largely due to the fact that there has never been a film like this before. The best thing to say is probably that this is a film that will divide audiences. For every audience member that sees this film as a visionary work of art there will be somebody else watching the clock and wondering when it is going to end.
Even describing the film itself is not an easy task. Basically it is filmmaker Elia Suleiman (The Time That Remains) travelling the world and finding parallels to his home country of Palestine wherever he goes. Even that description makes the film sound like a documentary – which it is not. Suleiman’s journey is brought to the screen by a series of scenes (think short films) that are linked together by the fact that he is a witness to all the events that happen in front of him.
Whether or not the humour of those short pieces work for you all depends on whether or not you understand the parallel that Suleiman is trying to make about his home-land and what kind of humour wets your appetite. One of the joys of the film I found though is the fact that nearly everyone I know who has seen the film takes away different meanings from the scenes themselves. For example the scene in New York where everyone in the supermarket is armed. Is that drawing a parallel to what life is like in Palestine or is it making a comment about America’s gun culture. An audience member could take either away from the scene and to be honest you couldn’t call either wrong.
One thing that you do find with the film though is that it contains a very rare beauty. In a day where action films and CGI effects flood our cinemas it is refreshing to find a film that creates spectacle using the old fashioned style of filmmaking that relied on the director and cinematographer to bring beauty to the screen. Here Suleiman and cinematographer Sofian El Fani have exquisitely framed every shot to the point where at times it feels like you are looking at a piece of artwork on a gallery wall.
Likewise the presence of Suleiman more than makes up for the fact that he delivers very little dialogue throughout the film. He has the same kind of comedic presence as Larry David and as a result seems to be able to say more with a look or a stare than he could with a whole slab of dialogue. It seems strange to say because of the style of his performance but his acting work here is nothing short of amazing.
It Must Be Heaven is not the kind of film that you can recommend to everyone. If you love Marvel movies and big explosions then this isn’t the film for you, but if you enjoy a movie that makes you think and will stay with you a long time once the credits role then this is a film that you certainly check out.