Director/Screenplay – Ian Powell, Producer – Anton Z. Risan, Photography – Alessio Valori, Music – Ken Watanabe, Production Design – Lamis Bayar. Production Company – Magic Mask Pictures.
Alexander Bracq (Paul), Lee Chapman (John Baxter), Denton Lethe (Zhivago), Chris Grezoe (Griffin), Thomas Theroe (DeLeon), Anton Z. Risan (Pan), Maxime Salvo (Carlos), Anthony Styles (Simon)
Paul is working a gay rent boy, having come to London in search of his twin brother Saul. During sex, he is able to obtain a series of visions that he believes give him clues to finding his brother. However, he keeps needing to be taken to further extremes in order to get more information. This also has the side effect of allowing whoever he is having sex with the share his visions, which ends up scaring off most of his clients. At the same time, Paul meets Baxter, a producer of gay pornographic films who yearns to be able to make something artistic. Baxter is taken by Paul’s beauty and wants to make him the focus of his new film. As Paul thinks about Baxter’s offer, his pursuit of the visions becomes more dangerous.
Seeing Heaven was a debut feature for British director Ian Powell and concerns itself with clairvoyance. The casual warning to anyone who comes to Seeing Heaven unawares is that it is a film that appears made among the queer community and pitched directly to the gay interest market (there are no female characters in the film whatsoever, for example). Certainly, you have to celebrate the film for being what it wants to be – it depicts a living, thriving gay subculture in terms of gay bars (even casual encounters in the bathroom), a gay porn industry and rent boys as a perfect norm. Within the first few moments, we are introduced the young hero (Alexander Bracq) who is having a clairvoyant vision as he is being penetrated and begging the other man to “fuck me harder.” For many outside of this world, such frank depiction serves as a full-on departure from their comfort zone – it is a requirement to have to accept this world or switch the film off.
Seeing Heaven seems populated entirely by pretty young guys who are frequently required to parade around with bared chests and/or no clothing (although, Seeing Heaven comes in a tastefully softcore way that never shows any more than bared butts). If anything, one is constantly reminded of a better-budgeted and slightly more professionally produced version of one of David DeCoteau numerous genre films, all of which come with a frequent softcore gay bent.
With the vision of a figure in a colour-coded red hood and premonitions of a murder, Seeing Heaven seems for all the world like it is trying to fashion itself as a gay version of Don’t Look Now (1973). The main problem with Seeing Heaven is that it is slow and things seem to take forever to happen. Far too much of the film is taken up with scenes of people wandering around in their underwear and the hero’s continual indecisiveness over whether he is going to appear in Lee Chapman’s artistically meaningful porn film. As we goes through these endless scenes of Alexander Bracq’s vacillation, we just wish that the plot would get on with it and go where it is going to go. Similar clairvoyant films like Fear (1990), In Dreams (1999) or The Gift (2000) took us through a tightly wound series of corkscrew twists whereas Seeing Heaven singularly fails to engage as a plot. There seems nothing at stake, no sense of any urgency that the hero has as he tries to save his twin’s life – nothing that makes Seeing Heaven work as a thriller. By the time the film reaches its end and we get to the big surprise revelation that [PLOT SPOILERS] there is no twin, that Saul only exists inside Paul’s head – a twist that has been borrowed from The Other (1972) – it seems a twist revelation of stunning indifference.
Ian Powell next made Razors (2016) about people possessed by Jack the Ripper’s knives in the present day.