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From the Past

Films on the to-do list

  • Armageddon Time
  • Black Widow
  • Chimes at Midnight
  • The Killing of a Sacred Deer
  • Last Christmas
  • Remember Sunday
  • Shazam! 2
  • Thor: Love and Thunder
  • Spy Guys

Stealing Heaven (1988)

Film review: Stealing Heaven (1988), directed by Clive Donner

Based on the 1979 novel by Marion Meade, Stealing Heaven tells the passionate yet doomed story of Pierre Abélard and Héloïse d’Argenteuil in 12th Century France.

Peter Abelard (Derek de Lint) is a famous philosopher, with a whole horde of supporters amongst the students (Jourdain being a prime example, played by Mark Jax). It’s suggested he move into more respectable lodgings, and that of canon Fulbert (Denholm Elliott) is certainly very respectable indeed.

Fulbert’s young niece, Heloise (Kim Thomson), is both more learned than is socially acceptable for women at the time, and she’s very spirited to boot. Abelard agrees to tutor Heloise, and the whole thing would never have been an issue if it wasn’t for the fact that teachers, or indeed philosophers, at the time were supposed to be chaste. Abelard is a good boy in that respect. When his students pay a prostitute to spend the night with him, he’s not interested in the slightest. With Heloise, on the other hand, sparks fly, and it doesn’t take the two of them very long before they end up in bed together.

But umm, if they had had Facebook back in those days, you could say their relationship status would be classed as “It’s complicated”, because woah, “happily ever after” is not on the cards here. If you don’t know the story, I won’t spoil it, but just look them up on Wikipedia if you’re curious.

Judging from said Wikipedia articles, I would say that this film has romanticised history quite a bit, but seeing as it’s a passionate and tragically romantic B-movie with Derek de Lint, I’ll forgive it.

Yeah, you could say the production value isn’t very high – it’s certainly true for the DVD I have. It’s a Dutch import with a picture quality akin to a video recording, with Dutch subtitles that you can’t switch off. But if that’s the only way to get a hold of this film on DVD, then that’s fair enough. Mustn’t grumble.

Okay, yes, it’s technically a mediocre film, and the script and cinematography isn’t the most inspiring ever, and this is quite possibly a low-budget TV movie, but OMG the romance totally works. The sparks that fly between the inquisitive rebel Heloise and the reluctant horndog Abelard are amazing, in my humble opinion. (In fact, it prompted me to get the book on which the film is based. Update 2021: THE BOOK IS AMAZING!) Their relationship is sensual and playful, even if it begins with oodles of sexual tension that Abelard cannot possibly succumb to – but of course eventually does.

Film-wise, it’s totally meh. Story-wise, if you look beyond the cheesy lines and everything, it’s infatuating. And it stars Derek de Lint as well, which is an added bonus, because he achieved awesome in my view as soon as I saw him starring in Poltergeist: The Legacy.

But hrm, to be honest, I think I’ll have to curb my enthusiasm and let the final score land on something more average.

3 out of 5 astrolabes.


An easily distracted and over-excited introvert who never learns to go to bed at a reasonable time. Enjoys traveling (when there's not a plague on), and taking photos of European architecture. Cares for cats, good coffee and Boardwalk Empire. A child of her time, she did media studies in school and still can't decide what she wants to be when she grows up.

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