by Josie Meléndez | Full Circle
The Toronto International Film Festival kicked off with a rocky start. However, the first films to initiate the festival were anything but disappointing. As in Heaven (Du som er i himlen), Tea Lindeburg’s directorial debut was nothing short of an artistic dream.
On a farm in the 1800s, a young 14-year-old girl named Lise (Flora Ofelia Hofmann Lindahl) has her life planned out. The eldest daughter of a significantly large family, she is about to go away to pursue an education. All her plans, however, take a pause once her mother goes through complicated labor. The Danish film is a direct adaptation of Marie Bregendahl’s 1912 novel A Night of Death (En dødsnat). It tells the story of Bregendahl’s own experiences with her mother at the age of 12.
The visual language is the strongest player of As in Heaven. It is pleasing and inviting, yet haunting and absurd. It expresses itself through whimsy, but quickly challenges it all by way of evocative imagery, plaguing dialogue, and chilling sequences. Lindeburg crafts a masterful and majestic conversation between the viewer and the camera. The story itself transforms the way one may view the actions taking place in the period piece, compared to those happening in our present day.
In a stunning showcase of her talent, Lindeburg approaches every moment slow-paced and methodical. While this might allow for a full appreciation of the scenes, the picture suffers at the hands of this languish style. Nevertheless, it allows to present vivid imagery without entering the scene too late or leaving too early. The strong suit of the film lies in its stunning cinematography. Every moment feels like a photograph from a time forgotten. She also plays a lot with metaphors, symbols, and religious dogma.
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