*As part of our ongoing coverage of the Toronto International Film Festival 2021
Tea Lindeburg‘s debut feature As In Heaven, is an adaption of the Marie Bregendahl’s 1914 Danish novel A Night of Death (En dødsnat). The novel focuses on three generations of women trying to bend the norms they are born into. This film focuses on one woman in particular, Lise (Flora Ofelia Hofmann Lindahl) is a bright-eyed girl blossoming into womanhood. It is the eve of her departure from home to a world of higher education. Her forward thinking mother has envisioned a different life for her daughter, apart from the pastoral confines of family and chores. Her almost absentee father, on the other hand, does not approve.
Lise’s mother is in the midst of a difficult pregnancy. House matriarch, Klog Sine (played by Kirsten Olesen), has had disturbing visions about the child and the birth. Therefore, a doctor will not be called for this occasion. Instead the women rely on instinct, superstition, and dreams. Lise dreams too, are wild and vivid, and possibly foretell a change. All of a sudden nothing is certain in a world full of questioning and tradition.
Lindeburg’s eye focuses on tightly on her characters’ faces, particularly Lise’s. The film is quiet and relies a lot on natural lighting (sunlight and candlelight), thus all of the action is the people that inhabit the lens. Actress Flora Ofelia Hofmann Lindahl’s portrayal of Lise, renders the character raw and vulnerable. What woman hasn’t had to adjust her future to the benefit and survival of her family? Lindahl’s eyes and demeanor paint Lise’s emotions vividly. Lindahl’s talent is a good anchor to this lushly textured film.
Cinematographer Marcel Zyskind infuses the screen with colour among a sepia old world setting. I would have liked to see more glimpses of Lise’s inner world this way. What we are shown is magical and beautiful, even in its dread. The sounds of the film are a background combination of nature noises, (birds, wind, the buzz of a bee), and an ethereal Kristian Leth soundtrack. This is a benefit to Lindeburg’s poetic interpretation of Lise’s circumstances. While Lise pines for a world beyond, she is conflicted about the one she lives in, but understands her situations. Will she wither? Will she grow?
As in Heaven is a good piece about transitions and the sacrifices that women must still unjustly make for in their search for a life beyond survival.