Stinking Heaven :: Opens With Crack-Smoking, Then Gets Proper Sordid…

Cineville - Stinking Heaven

From the opening scene of two young girls smoking crack by a deserted river somewhere in the States, it's clear that Stinking Heaven  is a film that wears its indy credentials on its rather grody sleeve. At that point I was still with it though. I don't mind even the grodiest of indy credentials and I was actually thinking that that there deserted river looked like a pretty cool environment in which to smoke crack. I'd never seen crack-smoking look less sordid.

But then the film did become sordid, and then it became even more sordid and in the end, it was nothing but sordid.

Most of the action in the film is set in a house that's functioning as a 'sober house', which means it's full of ex-addicts of one sort or another (many of whom are still using covertly). The first few scenes in the house depict a makeshift marriage between a man who appears to be in his 70s and a woman who appears to be in her early 20s. Or maybe even late teens. It made me feel extremely uncomfortable, especially as we followed them into the top bunk for a while. I felt like I was watching something I really shouldn't be watching; something that should never have been filmed, and never have been enacted.

I wonder if I sound a little reactionary. I mean, it's just a film like any other with, one prays, consenting actors. I just found this scene genuinely repugnant.

It took a long time for any real narrative to be established in this film and I'm quite old-fashioned in this regard too. I really like narrative. So I started to get irritated by one scene after another in which there is no focus, literally and figuratively, and characters are just screaming and swearing at one another.

Cineville - Stinking

Gradually you realise that many of the most obnoxious scenes are actually reenactments of past traumas, which house rules insist the inhabitants enact and which are all filmed and which are all uniformly repugnant.

The old man - Kevin - spends much of the film shouting 'cunt' at various women and sneaking out of the house to relapse.

This is not a pleasant film. It includes the line: 'He was a good dad. He never tried to whore me out.'

However, by the end of it, the story had meandered far enough in some pretty plausible directions that I did begin to care a little for the characters. It suffers because basically there are few people more tedious than recovering addicts, but ultimately it's a film about loss, blame, guilt and recovery, and yeah, you know, they're human beings.

Having said that, there was a level of earnestness that I found profoundly tedious.

This film was recommended by Rick Alverson by the way, during one of his post-screening chats a couple of weeks ago.

I should probably have known better.

Still, better than Doctor Strange.


Cineville - Stinking


The Viewing

As I enter the auditorium, I notice a couple of sound engineers on a large stage in front of the screen. There is also a band set up on stage. The engineers are checking the mics. It looks like quite a substantial band, as there are three guitars, a keyboard, a drum set and a tambourine. On the front of the bass drum are the letters TMB. I tried to think who it might be, like there was a chance I would know. The Mighty Boosh? Three Men in a Boat? The Magnificent Bastards?

After the film, as I was leaving the Eye, I wondered if I should stay and watch Dazed and Confused as well. I'd seen it when it was out at the cinema in what, 1993, and I'd been rather disappointed. Would it not be interesting to see it again more than twenty years later? Would it not be more interesting than going home and getting on with this copywriting website, the thing on which your whole existence in Amsterdam relies? Damn right it would. So I bought myself a ticket. Then, having half an hour to kill and figuring I deserved a treat, I went out to dinner.

About the Author

I am Karl Webster. I wrote these words. If you liked them, you'll be overjoyed to know that there are plenty more where they came from. So you should definitely sign up to my newsletter if you haven't already.

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