Mysticism and philosophy of the film Angel Heart
Those who admire “Angel Heart” especially note the extraordinary atmosphere of the film, which delays from the first shots and does not let go until the credits. Those who are not enthusiastic about Parker’s creation criticize the weakness of the detective line: it is not so difficult to guess who is killing almost all the characters one by one. The most interesting thing is that both are right. Angel Heart is one of the most atmospheric films in cinematic history, but while it has many elements of a noir detective story, it’s never a detective story. Parker’s film is a mystical parable about the search for one’s own soul and the price of bargaining with the devil, which the ingenious play of Mickey Rourke and Robert De Niro turned into a true masterpiece.
What was the literary basis for the script?
The plot and images of almost all the characters were taken by Alan Parker from the novel by W. Hjortsberg “The Fallen Angel” (1978), but the director changed both the main idea and the very essence of the story. If Hjortsberg’s novel is a typical noir detective story, in which the main character acts as the narrator and which differs from other examples of the genre only in a mystical denouement, then Parker’s film defies unambiguous genre interpretation and poses serious philosophical questions for the viewer. The setting has also changed: if in the novel Angel conducts his investigation in New York, then the events of most of the film take place in New Orleans.
Why was the action moved to New Orleans?
To understand the tremendous creative success of Parker’s idea of shooting key scenes in the film in Louisiana, it is necessary to compare them with similar scenes in Hjortberg’s novel. In the novel, Satanists, for example, gather for black mass in an abandoned metro station, and Cypher, like Woland, puts on performances in a small theater. In the film, the place of these conventional-literary scenes is taken by an accurate, on the verge of naturalism, depicting the real life of New Orleans in the mid-1950s with its racial segregation and total poverty of the black ghetto, whose inhabitants remained faithful to the ancient cult of voodoo. The combination of realism, external everydayness of places and people with a steadily growing sense of nightmare creates the atmosphere of the “Angel Heart”.
What is the main idea of the film?
“Heart of an Angel” offers the audience not one, but two ideas, closely intertwined with each other. The first lies on the surface and goes back to both the legend of Faust and the Bible: any game with the forces of darkness leads to fatal results, and who wants to save his soul will lose it. None of the heroes of the film even think about repentance – the only way to salvation, which means that they are all doomed, no matter what rituals they would perform.
However, Parker is too subtle and intelligent a director to limit himself to these obvious thoughts. His film is also a detailed metaphor: the main character went in search of himself, found out who he really was, and was shocked. Does this mean that we all consider ourselves angels, but in fact, in the depths of our souls, the devil lives in everyone? Or that Mr. Jekyll and Dr. Hyde coexist in each of us (the reference to this work is obvious)? Parker prefers not to give an unambiguous answer, hinting only that sometimes it is better not to know the whole truth about yourself.
Why did Louis Cypher hire Angel?
At the beginning of the film, a mysterious foreign gentleman named Louis Cypher hires the not-so-successful New York detective Harry Angel to find the vanished star of yesteryear, Johnny Favorite. When it becomes known that Angel and Favorite are one and the same person, the question arises: why did Louis Cypher – aka Lucifer – go such a long way? After all, he knew perfectly well about Johnny Favorite’s attempt to deceive him, and could simply call him up and punish him. Why did you need to order Harry / Johnny to investigate?
The answer to this question is partly provided by the footage in which the desperate Angel repeats “I know who I am!” Before us is a man who has learned a terrible truth about himself and is tormented by this truth, a suffering and restless soul. The investigation that plunges Angel into the abyss is part of his punishment. He will burn in Hell anyway, but before that he will be thoroughly tormented on earth.
Besides punishment, there is another reason. It is no coincidence that Louis Cypher laughs during the last meeting with Angel: for him this whole story is fun, entertainment, and what could be more fun for Lucifer than the spectacle of human suffering? Cypher plays with the detective, pulling the strings like a puppet.
Why did Johnny Favorite decide to cheat?
In fact, the story of a man who decides to deceive the devil is one of the most widespread (it is also found in Russian folklore). The question is who is trying to outplay Lucifer and for what purpose. Johnny decides to break the deal not because he repented, realized the unrighteousness of his actions, etc., but because he fell into pride and decided that he had special power. As Kruzmark says, “He thought he could outsmart the prince of darkness.” The end of such a competition with evil spirits is always predictable: “Honestly, you were doomed when you stabbed this guy, Johnny.”
Why did Angel kill Dr. Fowler, Margaret Kruzmark, Toots Swift and others?
Committing one murder after another, the detective acts in a state of trance and not of his own free will, as Louis Cypher informs the viewer: “They all died at your hand. Naturally, I directed you. ” The idea of the devil is simple and elegant: he punishes with the help of the apostate Johnny those who helped deceive him 12 years ago – the devil, as well as those who were associated with him. Thus, Cypher kills two birds with one stone: both those guilty of deception are punished, and Johnny gets what he deserves.
What is the meaning of blood flowing from the ceiling?
The eerie scene, on the one hand, demonstrates the hero’s increasing immersion in the atmosphere of a nightmare, and on the other hand, it is a tribute to Parker’s favorite director, Andrei Tarkovsky, in whose “Mirror” it is raining from the ceiling. Blood is one of the main symbols of the film, along with the fan, the embodiment of inevitability, and the egg, symbolizing the soul.
Who was the father of Epiphany’s child?
When Angel asks her daughter Epiphany where the father of her child has gone, she replies: “I did not know him,” and a few minutes later confirms that she became pregnant “by the gods” during the ritual. The viewer receives an exhaustive answer to this question in the finale, when the kid, sitting in the arms of a policeman, begins to glow in his eyes, just like Louis Cypher. The son of Epiphany is the child of the devil, which means that nothing is over, and the dark story will have an equally dark continuation in the future.
What’s the point of the last shot?
Since in reality the protagonist is clearly being arrested for murder, he cannot end up in the elevator alone, without guards. Harry / Johnny’s continuous and inevitable descent downward should be interpreted symbolically: the soul, locked in the iron cage of its sins, from which it cannot escape (and the old elevator looks like such a cage), descends lower, lower and lower – into hell.