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Sweden 2004
Directed by
Kay Pollak
132 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

As It Is In Heaven

As It Is In Heaven is the somewhat programmatic story of an internationally-celebrated classical music conductor Daniel Dareus (Michael Nyquist), worn out and post-breakdown, who returns to his childhood village of Norrland in the far north of Sweden. The local church choir, which practices every Thursday in the parish hall asks him for a bit of help to improve their performing skills. At first he is reluctant but eventually, particularly once he has met the local enchantress and choir member, Lena, (Frida Hallgren), he changes his mind and the lives of all concerned are given new depth as he inspires them to try for a national choral competition.

Although underlying the film is a feel-good against-the-odds narrative template. the script weaves together the stories of multiple characters whose lives in one way or another are touched by Daniel’s dedication to music and its liberating energy. Much of this, unsurprisingly given Sweden’s puritanical legacy, is of a libidinal nature.

One tends to feel here that the film is trying to cram in too much (besides the director there are four other writers credited) with choppy character development (either that or as characters are having tantrums one minute, singing affably the next, Swedish people are highly volatile). This is especially so in the case of Gabriella (Helen Sjoholm), who is regularly beaten-up by her husband Conny (Per Morberg) but who keeps turning up for choir practice little worse for wear. (I was also a little perplexed as to why no-one realized that Daniel had once lived in the small town, his name change not-withstanding)

Given that It is also the story of Daniel’s own spiritual journey - his lofty ambition "to create music that will open a person's heart" but also his own ability to love wholeheartedly - the film’s resolution is arguably a little odd, playing off the template’s standard triumphant closure with a sombre, if not tragic, note and padding out proceedings with New Age-style talk of angels.

Muddled as much of the film is, it is still impressively ambitious in scope and worthy of contemplation.

FYI: Released in September 2004 and nominated for a Foreign Language Oscar the following year, director Kay Pollak hadn't made a film in 18 years following the murder of the Swedish Prime Minister on the same night that his previous film, Love Me! premiered.




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