Benny and Joshua Safdie’s Heaven Knows What

BOMB Magazine - - CONTENTS - by Sara Driver

I saw the stun­ning new filmby the Safdie broth­ers, Heaven Knows What, at the New York Film Fes­ti­val in 2014. I be­came a Safdie broth­ers’ fan af­ter see­ing their first film, The Plea­sure of Be­ing Robbed (2008). A pro­ducer, Mike Ryan, had given it to me think­ing I would like it. I did, and the next day af­ter view­ing it, I walked into our lo­cal DVD store and sit­ting be­hind the desk was the lead ac­tress, Eléanore Hen­dricks. How great! Hen­dricks, the Safdies, and the gang in­volved with Red Bucket Films are all NYC kids who love cin­ema. They study films. They adore movies. Cel­e­brat­ing and us­ing their film­mak­ing and bud­getary lim­i­ta­tions to the fullest, they have in­vented their own unique voice in cin­e­matic sto­ry­telling.

Se­bas­tian Bear- McClard, one of the pro­duc­ers and an old and dear friend, gave us tick­ets to the screen­ing of Heaven Knows What at the NYFF. When I heard the film was about street junkies, I groaned, not all that sure I wanted to see it. I re­mem­ber Robert Frank once say­ing some­thing like, “Junkies are bor­ing, es­pe­cially the Euro­pean ones.” I pretty much feel the same way. Amer­i­can, Euro­pean, it doesn’t mat­ter—junkies are bor­ing.

My fears were un­war­ranted. What a splen­did treat to see this low- bud­get film­cel­e­brated on the Alice Tully Hall screen. The film is beau­ti­fully made. It is about street kid junkies, but that’s only a part of what makes up a very strong film. It is most of all a love story that haunt­ingly re­flects gen­uine con­cerns about our cur­rent cul­ture and so­ci­ety. It is a tragic Dick­ens story about aban­doned youths cast away by their bi­o­log­i­cal fam­i­lies, left on the street to fend for them­selves and cre­ate their own “fam­i­lies” and allegiances.

Benny and Joshua Safdie wisely use long lenses (the film is won­der­fully shot by Sean Price Wil­liams) so that the very tal­ented non- ac­tor cast is ob­served with­out be­ing con­scious of the pres­ence of the cam­era. There is only one pro­fes­sional ac­tor in the en­tire film, Caleb Landry Jones. He blends in per­fectly with the oth­ers and is the provoca­tive male lead. Arielle Holmes, the cap­ti­vat­ing fe­male pro­tag­o­nist, is also the writer (the film is adapted from her un­pub­lished book, Mad Love in New York City) and real- life sub­ject of the film. A first time ac­tor, Holmes pho­to­graphs beau­ti­fully and is sim­ply al­lur­ing to watch. The film gives au­di­ences a very pow­er­ful, lin­ger­ing, and eerie ex­pe­ri­ence—a glimpse into a mod­ern un­der­world that is rarely de­picted. — Sara Driver is a film­maker and pro­ducer who lives and works in New York.

Elara Pic­tures/ RA­DiUS TWC, 2015 Arielle Holmes as Har­ley in HEAVEN KNOWS WHAT, 2015. Cour­tesy of Elara Pic­tures/ RA­DiUS TWC.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.