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As in Heaven

(Svo á jörðu sem á himni)
Iceland/Denmark 1992. Dir: Kristín Jóhannesdóttir. 122 min. 35mm

Sophomore director Kristín Jóhannesdóttir equalled the visual and narrative daring of her debut Rainbow’s End with this stunning magic-realist fable. Hrefna (Álfrún Örnólfsdóttir), a young girl living in a coastal village in 1936 Iceland, dreams herself and her family back into a 14th-century fantasy world. While current-day Hrefna eagerly awaits a visit from the ship of (true-life) French polar explorer Jean-Baptiste Charcot, her fantasy narrative unspools a tale of vengeance and sorcery that explains the origin of a curse that supposedly haunts the region — and which, Hrefna now fears, portends disaster in the present. Described as “a Nordic amalgam of Spirit of the Beehive and Venus Peter” (Geoff Andrew, Time Out), Kristín’s film is also notable for offering a feminist critique of a central trope of Icelandic sagas: the (male) hero’s journey abroad, leaving wife and children to patiently await his return at home. — SG/TIFF