As It Is in Heaven (Så som i himmelen) (2004)
|Year Of Production||2004|
|Running Time||126:39 (Case: 132)|
|RSDL / Flipper||Dual Layered||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Kay Pollak|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||Swedish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.85:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.85:1||Miscellaneous|
|Subtitles||English (Burned In)||Smoking||No|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
It has been a slow train coming for this Swedish feel good drama to make it to DVD. But for fans of this film, of which there are many, this release will do much to satisfy their cravings.
As It Is In Heaven, directed by Swede Kay Pollak, was a nominee for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2005 Oscars. It lost out to Il Mare Adentro (The Sea Inside) another story of a man trying to find peace and resolution in his life. The film had a measure of sleeper celebrity when the Hayden Orpheum in Cremorne, Sydney showed it for a record-breaking 66 weeks and it is still showing. It is now the longest running film in Australia.
The reason for the success can be attributed to the simplicity of its story of a man coming to terms with his past and struggling to create his life's ambition as well as the beautiful music that drives the piece.
Daniel Dareus (Michael Nyqvist) is a world renowned conductor. He is a hero in his homeland and performing at the top of his game. Well, he was. Daniel suffers a heart attack after a performance, probably triggered by his intensity and demand for perfection. He returns to his home town in the far north of Sweden not really to recuperate (his doctor has given a grim forecast of his chances of recovery) but to face the demons of his past. Daniel changed his name after he left town. It was a decision based on his desire to adopt a stage profile but it also reflected a need to forget his harsh upbringing in the town where he was constantly bullied for his artistic inclinations.
Northern Sweden is no Bahamas. It is dark and cold and his new home, his old primary school, is frigid and empty.
The spirit of the town is pretty chilly too. A motley crew gather at the church hall for choir practice in the evenings lacking any real enthusiasm and drive. The townspeople are in the thrall of the local pastor who thumps the bible with real zeal. His wife is a honest to goodness church mouse who has long mourned the absence of passion in her life. Meanwhile, Gabriela is a beaten housewife too scared to leave her abusive husband Conny, who just happens to be one of the bullies that preyed on Daniel. Arne is a happy go lucky guy who maintains his self esteem by denigrating the weak around him. There is also the spinster, the handicapped boy, a bevy of senior citizens and the beautiful Lena (Frida Hallgren) (think of a delightful blend of Michelle Williams and Clare Danes). Lena is no nymphomaniac but amongst the god fearing crowd she is considered a loose woman for her failure to settle down into a relationship.
Although initially reluctant, Daniel is drawn into assisting the choir then becoming cantor of the church. In this talented but rough and ready group he sees the chance to achieve his life's' ambition - a purity of music that comes straight from the heart.
Of course, things aren't all smooth sailing. The choir has it's own internal problems. Old resentments lurk beneath the surface and Daniels methods draw him offside against the piety of the pastor. Added to this mix is the fact that the womenfolk can't help falling a bit for the intense conductor - none more so than Lena who has been without someone to really love since a visiting doctor turned out to have a wife and children.
The struggle to overcome fear and reach your goals is the core of this film and it is little wonder that it has captured so many hearts. Truth be told the script is only occasionally inspired and the acting varies in quality although the performances are never less than enjoyable. Nyqvist makes a good fist of the sometimes difficult Daniel and Frida Hallgren is endearing as the vulnerable Lena. The film is a little long and some have griped about the ending (not me!) What really sells the picture is the universality of music as the window to the soul and some wonderful moments when the choir hits full voice. As sentimental as these scenes are they are also very moving and even the most cynical of critics would have trouble wiping away a tear or two.
Real fans may well gripe, however, at the lack of extras on this DVD. Given that the film has been a minor but enduring success around the world it would have been nice to see how the cast and crew remember the production and whether it has inspired them in any way.
Still, as an uplifting experience there are few films that do it better than As It Is In Heaven.
As It Is In Heaven was shot on 35mm film and presented cinematically at a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.
This DVD from Madman Entertainment presents an image close to that ratio and with 16x9 enhancement.
I doubt that this was a very "pretty" film to begin with. The town in Northern Sweden is cold and grey when it is not cold and white! The colour scheme for the movie is also pale and chilly and the flesh tones match it. Even the primary colours are largely matt.
Having said that, there is nothing wrong with the DVD transfer. It is clear and free of any artefacts or other defects. I noticed the briefest aliasing and a moment or two of edge enhancement - however, nothing too noticeable. Compression is no issue and the level of grain is almost unnoticeable.
The only problem I did notice probably has nothing to do with the transfer. In several scenes in the movie the focus was slightly out. This was most likely a focus puller issue as the camera occasionally focussed on a door frame or object next to the actor. Again only a minor problem.
There are clear subtitles in the movie. The film does feature English as well as Norwegian so the subtitles are burnt into the print.
As It Is In Heaven has a Dolby Digital soundtrack running at a rather measly 192 Kb/s.
This is a real disappointment for although much of the film wouldn't benefit from surround sound the choir scenes, particularly the final scene, would surely have benefited from surround action to encompass the viewer in the music.
Leaving that aside the soundtrack is otherwise pretty good and audio sync looked fine even in the singing scenes.
|Surround Channel Use|
The only extras on the DVD are the Original Theatrical Trailer and a Teaser. Both are interesting to watch once.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
This film is yet to get a Region 1 DVD release. My German isn't very good but it seems that the Region 2 Germany release, where the film is called Wie in Himmel, contains some good extras. As best as I can determine there is a double DVD set which contains a Making of, interviews with Kay Pollak and Michael Nyqvist and the two key songs from the film with text. The film is also apparently given a German and Swedish 5.1 soundtrack. Anyone who can read German is welcome to tell me what the solitary review says!
For English speakers the Region 4 is the only option.
As It Is In Heaven is a heartfelt and often moving film which cried out for a DVD release.
Fans will be pleased to see it although some may have wanted a better soundtrack and some decent extras.
|DVD||Pioneer BDP-LX70A Blu-ray Player, using HDMI output|
|Display||Pioneer PDP-5000EX. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.|
|Speakers||JBL 5.1 Surround and Subwoofer|