Dec 7, 2014

Review: Så som i himmelen [As It Is in Heaven] (2004)

As it turns out, As It Is in Heaven isn't as much of a Christmas movie as I was expecting. I'm not sure what made me lump it in with the holiday movies, but besides a couple of times where the choir sing a couple of Christmas songs, there's not much that makes it a movie to watch at Christmas. Even if I didn't really realize it, I probably needed a break like this from all this Christmas stuff anyway.

As It Is in Heaven is a perfectly good movie to watch in December though. After all the setting is cold, wintery and the story is about people being brought together by music. Mikael Nyqvist who is best known for his role of Mikael Blomkvist in the Swedish Millennium series of films stars in this one. It made history at the Swedish Guldbagge Awards by nabbing a nomination in every category, but also by going empty handed by the end of the night. AIIiH was also nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards.


Genre: comedy, drama, music
Directed by: Kay Pollak
Produced by: Anders Birkeland, Göran Lindström, Gunnar Carlsson, etc.
Written by: Anders Nyberg, Ola Olsson, Carin Pollak, etc.
Music by: Stefan Nilsson
Running time: 133 minutes
Production company: Sonet Film AB, GF Studios AB, Lefwander Kapitalförvaltning AB
Distributed by: Sonet Film, A-Film Distribution, Rialto Distribution, etc.
Country: Sweden
Language: Swedish, English
Budget: $3,700,000
Box office: N/A

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Michael Nyqvist, Frida Hallgren, Helen Sjöholm, Lennart Jähkel, Ingela Olsson, Niklas Falk, Per Morberg, Ylva Lööf, André Sjöberg, Mikael Rahm, Barbro Kollberg, Axelle Axell, Lasse Pettersson, Ulla-Britt Norrman-Olsson, Nils-Anders Vallgårda, Lotten Vallgårda, Mircea Crisan



Daniel Daréus (Michael Nyqvist) is a famous orchestra conductor who has loved music since he was a young boy. During an intense performance, Daniel collapses at the end of it with a heart attack. His diagnosis isn't good and he probably doesn't have much time left before his heart fails him again. Daniel decides to turn his back on music and return to the village where he was born. He buys his old elementary school building and plans on enjoying the time he has left.


As It Is in Heaven struck me as the kind movie I had seen before. New guy comes into town and changes things up much to the displeasure of some. However, that doesn't mean that it doesn't keep things interesting though because it certainly does.

Kay Pollak does an effective job at making the story and its characters the centerpieces of As It Is in Heaven. Daniel is a rich character and Michael Nyqvist gives him this really nice awkwardly polite persona that I like. At the same time, he takes music very seriously and gets very intense at times. He's definitely an interesting character to watch as he grows. The contrast between himself and the rural demographic he's dealing with is also nicely done without going overboard.

There are a lot of other characters besides Daniel, but Pollak does a good job at making them easy to follow and to sympathize with. There isn't a dull story line in AIIiH nor a dull character. Some of them might be familiar but it doesn't matter since they're all so well utilized. 

With all of these storyline, there is indeed a lot of drama. Kay Pollak avoids falling into melodrama though but does come close a few times. I was also pretty impressed with the level of tension in certain scenes. With all these story lines however, I couldn't help but feel that there were some pacing issues. There seems to be a lot of back and forth happening very quickly, particularly near the end. It's not an issue that derails As It Is in Heaven but it's still an issue all the same.

This is a music movie and I can safely say that there is some great music in here. Daniel takes on the job of whipping up the local choir into shape with some pretty spectacular results. There are some genuine shiver inducing moments with music in As It Is in Heaven and that alone makes this a pretty special movie. 

I'd say that there is only really one cheesy scene in this film (Spoilers) and that's the whole makeup scene between Daniel and Lena (Frida Hallgren) in the hotel room. (End Spoilers) Kay Pollak quickly makes up for that scene with a really brilliant ending sequence though. I was fully expecting a predictable competition of choirs with Norrland of course winning, but that's not what happens at all. What happens is far, far better and I got one of my favourite things; (Spoilers) a bittersweet ending. (End Spoilers)

As It Is in Heaven turned out to be a nice break from the over-Christmased movies I've been seeing lately this December. It's got a very slight holiday tinge to it but it can be watched at any time of the year. Kay Pollak lets the story do the talking and Michael Nyqvist gives a good performance. The music is one of the movie's highlights and I can see why this film was so loved when it first came out in its native Sweden. It's definitely worth a look if you're into music movies and want something a little bit different.



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