The abyss of heaven

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Ladson Hinton, “The Abyss of Heaven,” The San Francisco Jung institute Library Journal, 2006, 25:4, 61-67. The Sheltering Sky is Bernardo Bertolucci's retrospective view of the western psyche of the 1940's from the standpoint of the 1990's. The protagonists are ‘sophisticated’ New Yorkers: a couple deeply discontented with their marriage and lives, and their ‘playboy’ friend. Rather than reflecting upon and facing the unknown, they try to fill the void of meaning with compulsive ‘travels.’ Their experiences of the ‘exotic other’ often display an exploitive quasi-colonial mentality. The ‘sheltering sky’ motif ironically conveys an illusory comfort, perhaps an innocence that has been lost. Outstanding cinematography with images of desert and sky underline this mystery. The couple, played by John Malkovich and Debra Winger, steadily loses a sense of personal and cultural identity as they travel more deeply into North Africa. They end, respectively, in death and madness. The drama leaves us with deep uncertainties about the possibility of meaning and the plight of western culture. However, the dreaming presence of the human imagination—of author, director and audience—provides rays of hope for the future. It set the stage for Bertolucci's next film, Little Buddha.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)61-67
Number of pages7
JournalSan Francisco Jung Institute Library Journal
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2006


  • Bertolucci
  • Culture
  • Debra Winger
  • Desire
  • Exotic other
  • John Malkovich
  • Tourist
  • Traveler
  • Uncanny
  • Uncertainty
  • Void

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Cultural Studies
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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