As a cis-gender male, I feel somewhat uncomfortable reviewing a film that so obviously deals with the plight of women. But to simply reduce Tea Lindeburg‘s debut feature to a feminist pamflet would be doing it a grave disservice.

Lise (Flora Ofelia Hofmann Lindahl), a teenage girl growing up among her many siblings on a farm in rural Denmark, is bright and good-spirited. Supported by her pregnant mother, she is looking forward to an education that might be her ticket out of the harsh farm life that awaits her. When Lise has a very vivid and ominous vision, one that she links to her mother’s oncoming labor, it sets in motion a series of events that will determine the rest of her life over one fateful night.

Based on a turn of the century novel (the previous century, not this one) it deals with the stifling world women lived in at the end of the eighteen hundreds. There’s hardly a man in sight in this film. They’re either off working the land, galavanting around or occasionally stopping by to stomp on teenage girl’s dreams of an education and a life of (relative) freedom.

Women rule the world in this farming community, but they are plagued by ignorance and superstition. When a birth goes horribly awry, nobody is willing to call for the doctor because of a premonition the mother had. It’s a very obvious self-fulfilling prophecy which makes it all the more frustrating. Or maybe it’s simply obvious because versions of this still echo through our society now. Where buying into a lazy lie trumps educating yourself on difficult matters.

Supported by a sparse, eerie drone soundtrack, Lindeburg directs her young cast with ease while Marcel Zyskind‘s cinematography exudes a raw naturalism that leaves room for beauty in simplicity. Some visuals may be a little on the nose (spot the butterfly trying to get out) but that doesn’t make the message ring any less true.

As In Heaven‘ is narratively on the slight side but is uplifted by the natural screen presence of its cast and its thematically timely nature.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Reviewed on September 9, 2021 at Toronto International Film Festival. Rating: TBC. Running time: 85 min.

PRODUCTION: A LevelK release of a Motor production. Producers: Lise Orheim Stender, Jesper Morthorst. Executive producers: Jesper Morthorst, Christian Torpe, Tea Lindeburg, Marcel Zyskind, Malte Udsen.

CREW: Director/writer: Tea Lindeburg. Editing: Åsa Mossberg. Music: Kristian Leth. Cinematography: Marcel Zyskind.

CAST: Flora Ofelia Hofmann Lindahl, Ida Cæcilie Rasmussen, Palma Lindeburg Leth, Anna-Olivia Øster Coakley, Flora Augusta, Kirsten Olesen, Lisbet Dahl, Stine Fischer Christensen, Thure Lindhardt, Albert Rudbeck Lindhardt.

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