Sunday, 25 April 2010

As it is in Heaven

There was lots I loved about this movie, and I definitely wouldn't have seen it if not for your recommendation, Vic. I had no idea that Swedes are so quirky and passionate (if this depiction is accurate). A lot of the depth of the movie is really only hinted at or inferred in brief glimpses, but in a way that worked - after all it is telling a lot of stories all at once. The power of the combination of relationship, honest expression and music is well-depicted. And the challenge that this power poses to organized religion (when religion foolishly lets itself be opposed to that combination) is also well-depicted, though the repressed pastor gets a little close to cliche (the one scene with his wife being a notable exception).

As a movie, the one weakness I had trouble forgiving was the invisibility of the town's professional services - does no one ever call the police or ambulance in small town Sweden? Would bringing in such services have taken away from the fable-like quality of the movie (perhaps)?

My biggest critique, however, is not with the movie as such but with the worldview it represents. As expressed by Inger, the pastor's wife, it is that "there is no sin" and therefore no need for forgiveness. I am familiar and not unsympathetic to this worldview. Like some therapeutic worldviews it also suggests that those who do great harm are still "doing their best" (as Gabriella says to Conny). Yes, I feel the pull to this idea, especially when you see it portrayed as in this movie. But I believe it is an anemic worldview. It refuses to look into one's own heart enough to see that we make real choices between vulnerable care for others and self-protective violence and apathy. We are not doing our best when we choose the latter. We often know, sooner or later - and with or without churches telling us - that we have screwed up and can't fix it. When that happens, forgiveness heals; permissive, expressive and universal acceptance does not. The latter, as I see it, simply confuses and makes meaningless our experience of suffering or over-simplistically attributes it all to ignorance. The problem is that we often know and are able to do better and still choose to hurt others.

I am pretty confident that there is a way between the self-righteous, repressed and ultimately dishonest worldview this movie sets itself against and the spineless (I mean this 'literally' not pejoratively) worldview that imagines that doing away with sin and forgiveness will liberate us.

But having a disagreement with its position did not stand in the way of liking this passionate and compassionate film. So I give it ***1/2. (I would have given it 4 if they would have ever just called the police.)

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this review of one of my favourite films. I agree with most of what you said, but your "biggest critique" refers to a general theme in the film that actually made it one of my favourite films. This does not mean I challenge what you wrote. Rather, I am suggesting that we did not see this film in the same way. I did not see this film promoting a worldview in which there is no sin or need of forgiveness. But I will need more time to consider this before I elaborate, so stay tuned.