You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Hemel

A tale of a young woman's compulsive and transgressive sexual behavior that features ample shots of its characters' nether-regions, "Hemel" at first feels like a Dutch female version of "Shame."

With:
With: Hannah Hoekstra, Hans Dagelet, Rifka Lodeizen, Mark Rietman, Barbara Sarafian, Eva Duijvestein, Ward Weemhoff, Ali Bern Horsting, Abdullah El Baoudi, Elske Rotteveel, Maarten Heijermans. (Dutch, Arabic, Spanish, English dialogue)

A tale of a young woman’s compulsive and transgressive sexual behavior that features ample shots of its characters’ nether-regions, “Hemel” at first feels like a Dutch female version of “Shame.” But unlike that recent film, helmer Sacha Polak’s debut pays equal attention to the complex family bonds that underlie its protag’s psychological makeup and inform her actions. Beautifully lensed look at the moment just before a daughter has to let go of her father should travel extensively and turn Polak into a name to watch.

Pic opens with some in-the-buff roughhousing involving Hemel (stunning newcomer Hannah Hoekstra) and a guy (Ward Weemhoff) she’s picked up the night before — something, it emerges, she does quite frequently. A shot of her peeing standing up recalls a similar scene in “Shame,” and, indeed, the pic’s first two of eight chapters also clinically detail her conquests and sexual behavior, which seem vulgar, compulsive and loveless. When a man (Abdullah El Baoudi) caresses her after the deed, she tells him she prefers her partners to act like lions: Be quick and then fall asleep.

But by the third segment, “Father and Daughter,” Polak has contextualized Hemel’s acts by introducing the complex relationship with her widowed father, Gijs (Hans Dagelet). A silver fox who works at Christie’s, Gijs has dated several women younger than himself, though his numerous monogamous relationships have never felt like a threat to Hemel, who no doubt thinks her sex life is just like her dad’s, only a bit more intense.

Hemel (which means “Heaven” in Dutch) knows that her bond with her father, since her mother’s early death and her own coming of age, is rock-solid, though both are unaware that their rapport often feels closer to a de-facto marriage (without the sex) than a healthy parent-offspring relationship. A montage sequence of a visit to the opera impressively suggests this point without using any words.

The arrival of Sophie (Rifka Lodeizen), a down-to-earth colleague of Gijs’, starts to threaten the status quo when their relationship becomes something more serious. Though Helena van der Meulen’s screenplay is a tad too schematic, it offers a wealth of well-observed scenes that are realistic and psychologically illuminating, such as Hemel’s unplanned visit to her devoutly Protestant ex-stepbrother (Maarten Heijermans) after one of her hookups turned unexpectedly violent.

A postcoital conversation with married man (Mark Rietman) who is otherwise faithful is typical of the pic’s lifelike yet smart dialogue, with his joke about her suffering from Tourette’s driving home the point that Hemel’s condition should be seen as something serious. But Polak thankfully shows restraint in the cause-and-effect department, observing the characters’ behavior without self-consciously underlining how one thing is related to another.

Veteran thesp Dagelet aces the role of a normally functioning man who has blinkers on when it comes to his daughter, but the film belongs to Hoekstra, who literally gives it her all. Her Hemel is impulsive and rude, supremely confident but also fragile and needy.

After his outstanding work on “Nothing Personal,” lenser Daniel Bouquet here impresses with widescreen work composed of milky lights and muted colors. Score’s main motif, structured around what sounds like an electrocardiograph monitor, adds another wistful note.

Hemel

Netherlands

Production: A Cineart release of a Circe Film presentation of a Circe Film, Bella Cohen Films production, in association with VPRO, Jaleo Films. (International sales: Media Luna Films, Cologne.) Produced by Stienette Bosklopper. Directed by Sacha Polak. Screenplay, Helena van der Meulen.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Daniel Bouquet; editor, Axel Skovdal Roelofs; music, Rutger Reinders; production designer, Elsje de Bruin; costume designer, Sara Hakkenberg; sound (Dolby SRD), Jan Schermer; line producer, Ilse Ronteltap; casting, Rebecca van Unen. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (Forum), Feb. 11, 2012. Running time: 80 MIN.

Cast: With: Hannah Hoekstra, Hans Dagelet, Rifka Lodeizen, Mark Rietman, Barbara Sarafian, Eva Duijvestein, Ward Weemhoff, Ali Bern Horsting, Abdullah El Baoudi, Elske Rotteveel, Maarten Heijermans. (Dutch, Arabic, Spanish, English dialogue)

More Scene

  • Chanel x Tribeca Film Festival Women's

    Chanel's Tribeca Film Fest Luncheon Toasts to Women's Movements in Industry

    A tale of a young woman’s compulsive and transgressive sexual behavior that features ample shots of its characters’ nether-regions, “Hemel” at first feels like a Dutch female version of “Shame.” But unlike that recent film, helmer Sacha Polak’s debut pays equal attention to the complex family bonds that underlie its protag’s psychological makeup and inform […]

  • Doug Davis Power of Law

    Doug Davis Discusses Using Music for a Cause at Variety's Power of Law Event

    A tale of a young woman’s compulsive and transgressive sexual behavior that features ample shots of its characters’ nether-regions, “Hemel” at first feels like a Dutch female version of “Shame.” But unlike that recent film, helmer Sacha Polak’s debut pays equal attention to the complex family bonds that underlie its protag’s psychological makeup and inform […]

  • Ken Ziffren and Claudia EllerVariety Power

    Attorney Ken Ziffren Offers Sobering Take on Film Business at Variety's Power of Law Breakfast

    A tale of a young woman’s compulsive and transgressive sexual behavior that features ample shots of its characters’ nether-regions, “Hemel” at first feels like a Dutch female version of “Shame.” But unlike that recent film, helmer Sacha Polak’s debut pays equal attention to the complex family bonds that underlie its protag’s psychological makeup and inform […]

  • 'The Handmaid's Tale'

    'The Handmaid's Tale' Cast, Creator Talk Season 2 in #MeToo Era, Expanding Gilead

    A tale of a young woman’s compulsive and transgressive sexual behavior that features ample shots of its characters’ nether-regions, “Hemel” at first feels like a Dutch female version of “Shame.” But unlike that recent film, helmer Sacha Polak’s debut pays equal attention to the complex family bonds that underlie its protag’s psychological makeup and inform […]

  • Pamela Adlon Better Things

    Pamela Adlon: When 'Better Things' 'Stops Being Relatable Is When I Stop Doing My Show'

    A tale of a young woman’s compulsive and transgressive sexual behavior that features ample shots of its characters’ nether-regions, “Hemel” at first feels like a Dutch female version of “Shame.” But unlike that recent film, helmer Sacha Polak’s debut pays equal attention to the complex family bonds that underlie its protag’s psychological makeup and inform […]

  • The Future She Built

    Inventor of the Inclusion Rider Discusses Why the Initiative Is Necessary at Panel

    A tale of a young woman’s compulsive and transgressive sexual behavior that features ample shots of its characters’ nether-regions, “Hemel” at first feels like a Dutch female version of “Shame.” But unlike that recent film, helmer Sacha Polak’s debut pays equal attention to the complex family bonds that underlie its protag’s psychological makeup and inform […]

  • Diablo Cody, Charlize Theron and Jason

    'Tully's' Charlize Theron, Jason Reitman, Diablo Cody on Normalizing the Dark Side of Parenting

    A tale of a young woman’s compulsive and transgressive sexual behavior that features ample shots of its characters’ nether-regions, “Hemel” at first feels like a Dutch female version of “Shame.” But unlike that recent film, helmer Sacha Polak’s debut pays equal attention to the complex family bonds that underlie its protag’s psychological makeup and inform […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content