PICTURE THE SCENARIO: You’re on the cusp of adulthood, the eldest of many children. Contrary to your father’s wishes, you have decided to be educated. It’s the late 19th century and your mother supports this great wish of yours to make a life for yourself. And it’s all about to happen. But the universe has a different plan in its pocket for you. This is the premise of Tea Lindeburg’s film, As in Heaven, one of the works on this year’s European Film Festival, which is online and at cinemas in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban, between 12 and 22 October, in eSwatini between 20 and 22 October and Lesotho between 26 and 28 October.
Lise (Flora Ofelia Hofmann Lindahl) is the central protagonist to this hard-edged tale of burgeoning love, blind faith, crude values and too many children. She as innocent as her younger brothers and sisters but there is a turbulence of dreams within her. Her heavily pregnant mother is endemic to the farm culture which she is heir to. And the tale told lasts but one tragic night in which life and death, faith and stubbornness are characters as much as the performers themselves.
It’s a beautiful work, but one lacking in nuance, and from the trailer alone, the plot sequence and Lise’s fate is predetermined and predictable. It’s a cautionary tale of moral behaviour within a tight-knit and limited understanding of what can go down as evil. As it is a yarn about a silver hairclip gone astray in a field of hay. But also one so deeply moored in simple ignorance that you feel helpless in watching it.
The unequivocal highlight of this work, which resonates with South African farm stories of the ilk and value of Die Verhaal van Racheltjie de Beer directed by Matthys Boshoff, is its casting and direction of the children in the cast. They are wild and rough-and-tumble as children must be, and they feed off each other’s aggression, sorrow and boredom in a way which is both uncontrived and which sings in tandem with the wheat fields and dark interiors of this intense and oft unlovely tale of blood spilled and emotions held too tight.
- As in Heaven is directed by Tea Lindeburg and features a cast headed by Flora Augusta, Jesper Asholt, Stine Fischer Christensen, Anna-Olivia Øster Coakley, Lisbet Dahl, Hanne Hedelund, Ingrid Thunbo Ilskov, Emil Hornemann Juel, Ida Hornemann Juel, Alfred Røssel Læsø, Palma Lindeburg Leth, Flora Ofelia Hofmann Lindahl, William Ostenfeld Lindal, Albert Rudbeck Lindhardt, Thure Lindhardt, Cyron Melville, Kirsten Olesen, Ida Cæcilie Rasmussen, Emma Rosenzweig, Villads Røygaard, Helge Stockmar, Nanna Skaarup Voss, William Tino Wiese and Kristine Wittenbjerg. Written by Tea Lindeburg based on the 1912 novel Night of Death by Marie Bregendahl it is produced by Lise Orheim Stender and features creative input by Kristian Leth (music), Dreamers’ Circus (Nordic band), Marcel Zyskind (cinematography), Åsa Mossberg (editing), Anja Philip (casting), Jette Termann (casting of children), Jesper Clausen (production design) and Nina Grønlund (costumes). In Danish with English subtitles, it is part of the 10th European Film Festival South Africa, screening at The Zone in Rosebank Johannesburg, The Labia in Cape Town, Gateway in Durban and online from 12-22 October, with satellite programmes in eSwatini from 20-22 October and in Lesotho from 26 to 28 October.