BEING IN HEAVEN
Jason (Daniel Whyte) is a trader on Wall Street, with a penthouse and a fitness regime - until he's swindled by his boss and loses it all. Returning to Australia, he gets a gig writing for a magazine, and his first job is an interview - over a restaurant dinner - with a man (Michael Domeyko Rowland) who has found the secret of higher consciousness, and a way to take control of life.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The notions behind the basic and much manipulated concept of the power of positive thinking is taken to complex and sophisticated heights in this conversational feature which sits somewhere in the ethereal cinematic world on the border of drama and documentary. Structured much like (but thematically different) My Dinner With Andre (Louis Malle, 1981), the film is topped and tailed by a story device (which doesn't work too well) but whose intention is quite clear.
The higher mind, an internal spiritual engine, can drive our lives to a happier and more fulfilled life, goes the message, and much of it is in sync with common sense about the human condition - if only we could control it. The conversational format is challenging to maintain as engaging cinema, and it's largely due to the skills of a talented and experienced crew that it manages to sustain at all.
Michael Domeyko Rowland is the guru who lifts the consciousness of the failed money grabber, Jason (Daniel Whyte) and he delivers the philosophy with all the conviction of a preacher, sliding over theological and spiritual speed bumps with the practiced ease of the orator. His tale of how he and his ex-model wife were converted to the path of higher enlightenment by a flawless white dove shitting on their glossy magazine on their Bondi terrace one day is the film's highlight for me.
The likelihood of the film finding an audience beyond the already converted is limited but it's a worthy effort and those who (like the enthusiastic Byron Bay test screening crowd) connect with the film's message are likely to get a buzz out of it.
Review by Louise Keller:
Positive thinking is the thrust of Michael Domeyko Rowland's film that champions the self-development, self-awareness and the super-conscious. While it is called a feature film, in fact Rowland uses the medium as a platform for his self development agenda. He professes that the mind is a memory bank from which we repeat our experiences or make happen whatever it is on which we focus in order to expand our lives. Issues about taking one's future in the palm of one's hand have pertinence to us all and many good points are made, yet in this instance, I felt rather cheated. The film is little but a marketing exercise for Rowland's self-awareness seminars and even the participation of respected film industry professionals like DOP Martin McGrath, Editor John Scott and Production Designer George Liddle, cannot hide the fact.
The premise is based around the symbolically named Jason Masterman, played by the excellent Daniel Whyte (a hedge-fund trader turned journalist who has just lost his all in the economic downturn), who interviews Rowland's guru Michael, as he reveals his life philosophies over dinner. The setting is a mystical restaurant: the MD (Alan Flower), with his music-hall moustache and maroon fez cap might have walked straight off the set of Casablanca. The mainstay of the film comprises a conversation between Jason and Michael in which Michael bestows the gift of enlightenment onto Jason. We hear about Michael's life-changing experience in Melbourne after meeting an Indian man, when he walked home, felt happy, tall, strong (like a lion), and felt an explosion of energy from which he tasted euphoria. He felt connected to everything. And he was not on drugs. There's that light-globe moment when he and his model-wife made a life-changing decision, endorsed by a nearby dove.
Rowland's philosophy about being in the right place at the right time and our ability to expand our lives in whatever direction we so desire is one that will appeal to many. It is a positive thing to have an intensity of purpose, to demand change and to concentrate on what it is we want. However, honesty is also a virtue, and if Rowland wanted to deliver such a message, he should have found a vehicle that was a little more transparent and one that did not promise a story with characters and a dramatic arc. For those who attend his self development courses, there is certainly a market for the film on DVD. I did like George Liddle's production design, however, with the striking wooden Kashmiri screen that monopolises most of the scenes.
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BEING IN HEAVEN (G)
CAST: Daniel Whyte, Michael Domeyko Rowland, Alan Flower
DIRECTOR: Michael Domeyko Rowland
SCRIPT: Michael Domeyko Rowland
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Martin McGrath
EDITOR: John Scott
PRODUCTION DESIGN: George Liddle
RUNNING TIME: 93 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Palace
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane: January 28, 2010