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TIFF 2021: “As in Heaven”


Rating: 4 out of 5.

We all want to break free from prejudice, skewed perception, concerns, troubled past and an unsettling present. But what to do when there’s superstition? Should we judge life and death based on dreams and strange things or leave it to the scientist or doctors to decide?

Set a century ago, “As in Heaven” captures the obstacles of religion and superstition when signs from God and old sayings were regarded more than science. Set in rural Denmark, Lise wants to go to school and become somebody. Her mother, Anna does not mind and fully supports her elder daughter’s dream. But a complication occurs with Anna’s pregnancy and it threatens to claim her life. Sadly, Anna is afraid of doctors and thinks their appearance brings death, therefore, relies heavily on Old Sine, the iron-willed, devoted housekeeper, who thinks she can fix Anna’s difficult pregnancy without a doctor’s help.

What starts as a charming film turns into a nightmare, and that is a compliment. As we see Anna’s devotion and willingness to deliver the child without a doctor’s presence, Lise can’t do much but watch as her mother gets more into pain. Alone, handling other siblings, Lise hopes for the best outcome, but at some point, she will begin to question the power of faith, the presence of God and whether if He helps or punishes those who pray to him every day.

Director Tea Lindeburg’s powerful storytelling is impressive. Partly because of personal reasons, she gave life to an important story, whether it happened a century ago or now, and keeps occurring around the globe. The subject matter is urgent and cannot be missed. The film does not question religion or whether it needs to be followed. It just tries to point out why the Church or the Health System should be intersected. They must be separated for the good of the people. Because the more people become superstitious, the more they will rely on forces that can’t do much to prevent, say, heavy bleeding after a difficult birth, or perform surgery on the heart or on any other organ. Without any human presence, how can one conduct such an important procedure?

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