#117 – Pass into Heaven’s Arms, The

(1976, WGer, 100 min) Dir Roland Sacher. Cast Harvey Keitel, Isabelle Adjani.

Tough American mountaineer Jack Maggit (Keitel) has secured permission to enter China to search the Himalayan Mountains for the fabled valley of Pannak Coor, the mystical opening into the earth that eluded his famed explorer father, eventually driving him mad. Maggit sees this as his last best chance of wresting his family’s name from his father and securing himself a lasting legacy. Desperate to claim the glory for himself alone he permits only his wife Alison (Adjani) to come with him and document the trip. This set up takes all of five minutes at the film’s head with lots of methody shouting in a New York apartment before they leave, slamming the door and the film cuts to the Tibetan plateau where the echo of the slamming door melts into the sound of the wind as the two distant specks that are Jack and Alison are dwarfed by the mountains around them. It’s odd though, for Sacher, as the start of the film is much more like what one would expect from the director – enclosed spaces and lots of acting – and the rest of the film is altogether more sweeping, epic and visual than is common in his oeuvre. That’s not to say that it doesn’t work and that there aren’t a couple of scenes of intense emotion (and shouting) to be had either because it does work and there are plenty of acting moments for Keitel to chew on too. The film’s ending is another story completely, turning from a David Lean film into a Alejandro Jodorowski one when the valley is found and visions of inverted rainbows and glowing green spider webs that bind the world start flying about.

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