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‘Stinking Heaven’ Clip

The fragile harmony of a sober commune is cruelly disrupted by the arrival of Ann. The paranoia and drug relapse she causes result in destructive chaos. With admirably controlled improvisations, Silver creates an idiosyncratic film that leaves a deep impression.

Stinking Heaven starts with a marriage ceremony. It looks idyllic, but a little later it turns out that Kevin and his much younger bride Betty spend their wedding night in a small, grubby room full of bunk beds, watched by the other tenants. They live in a commune in New Jersey, founded by the idealistic married couple Jim and Lucy. All the inhabitants are former drug addicts and try to keep off drink and drugs using improvised game therapy. That turns out not to be very easy.

New Yorker Nathan Silver situated his fifth independently produced feature in the early 1990s. Stinking Heaven was shot on a professional video camera from that era. The typical grainy video (in 4:3 format) is a good match for the communual chaos that Silver tries to register. As always, he worked without a scenario and allowed his actors to improvise. The result is a jumpy, idiosyncratic and sensitive group portrait.

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