Meet Bill (Bart de Rijk), a lumpy dunce who has slipped on fish sticks and killed himself. At the customer service desk of the heavenly gates, he is given the chance to relive one last memory, but if he dies, he’ll end up in limbo. Will Bill survive his past?
Co-directed by Chris de Krijger and Mischa Dols, Hemelpoort (Heavenly Gate) imagines judgment day as a thoroughly underwhelming transaction, manned by a sarcastic gatekeeper named Peter (Henry van Loon), who trolls his customers to stave off the boredom.
According to Chris, the story was inspired by his Christian upbringing at a school where “God worked from 9 to 5,” and the fear that the avoidance of sin might be an impossible and unnecessary task.
As for Mischa, he was fascinated by the clumsiness of this character, and the ways Bill’s outsider status could be shown through creative framing and set design; at first, this memory world seems perfect, but Bill’s presence in the narrative soon disrupts this idealized, symmetrical world—and the results of this disruption are cringeworthy.
The film is rife with surprises, and it’d be a shame to spoil them here, so you should take ten minutes out of your day to watch this dreamy nightmare. It is a clever film that manages to humanize the afterlife while pushing a universally awkward memory to the limits of absurdity.
And if you learn nothing else, it will teach you the dangers of leaving slippery fish sticks on the floor, lest you end up like Bill.