As It Is in Heaven (Så Som i Himmelen)

As It Is in Heaven is the story of Daniel Dareus, a prominent conductor who returns to his hometown after a heart attack, and gets involved in the rag-tag (as evidenced by the presence of an elderly lady with a hearing aid) village church choir to be near a pretty girl named Lena. Newly hired as cantor but not much of a believer, Daniel first encounters a developmentally disabled young man named Tore smilingly wrangling a stack of Bibles outside the church and studiously ignores him. But later Tore interrupts one of their rehearsals, wanting to sing along. His cousin tries to rebuff him, the kinder members of the congregation try to appease him with a sugar bun, but Daniel hears his vocalizations as harmonious and decides to let him into the group.

The exact nature and origin of Tore’s disabilities are not delved into (nor is his story told in the film), but perhaps that is because Tore is the most self-actualized member of the budding choir. While the others must confront their internal and external demons to find their authentic voice, Tore’s emotions are laid bare for all to see. When an angry boyfriend bursts into the rehearsal room to punish his girlfriend for some imagined infraction, Tore wets his pants. The anger of the group is inexplicably directed towards Tore instead of the abusive man. But Lena stands up for him, shouting “Haven’t you ever wet your pants?” and reminding them that their duty is to stand against the bully. As is usual with groupthink, the emotions of the group turn on a dime towards acceptance for Tore. Lena leads Tore to the bathroom to get him cleaned up; this is clearly recognized by Tore as an act of love. (Daniel’s love is thus cemented as well.) Later in the film when Lena storms out one day, angry at Daniel, it is Tore’s agitated hollering that propels him forward, against his nature, to go after her.

Tore may not be able to form words very well, but once accepted by the choir he becomes an integral part. He is seen joyously playing on improvised drums and keeping time with a whistle. He is included in their celebrations and an expensive trip to Germany to compete in the “Let the People Sing” competition. Lena explains to Daniel that she sees angel wings on Tore and on him, and can see them on others if she tries hard enough.

When Daniel doesn’t show for the choir’s big performance, Tore is unable to hide his apprehension. He buries his head in Lena’s shoulder and stamps his feet, alerting the audience and judges to their tension. The choir begins harmonizing to calm him, the audience joins in, and a flight of angels sings Daniel to his rest.

Mother of Mine (Äideistä Parhain)

Mother of Mine depicts the struggle of Eero, a young Finnish boy, to adapt to the death of his father in World War II, and the subsequent removal of a generation of Finnish children to neighboring Sweden for their protection. Eero’s putative new mother Signe wants nothing to do with the boy once he arrives, so her husband Hjalmar kindly introduces to his new home and host family. “We have a radio, a clock, and a Grandpa. He’s sick and can’t talk, but he hears everything you say. Right, old man?” In response, Grandpa (whose disability is likely the result of a stroke; his speech and motor skills are affected, but he seems largely cognitively intact) makes a slurping sound, and the two laugh a bit.

That night, at the dinner table, Grandpa is shakily feeding himself with a spoon when Signe gets frustrated. She peremptorily declares that everyone is done eating, brusquely wipes his face, and wheels him to his bedroom. Indeed, Grandpa serves as a bellwether of sorts for Signe’s moods; when she is frustrated with the interloper in her home, Grandpa is accorded little respect for his autonomy. Later, when she warms up to Eero, Grandpa is seen picnicking with the family on a grassy hill; it must have taken an effort to lug him up there in his wheelchair, but he is included as part of the family and even enjoys a beer or two.

When Eero’s mother is finally able to take care of him again, Grandpa is visibility distraught at his departure, and slurs out a single word: “Stay.”


Set in the days of the Roman Empire, Centurion follows the trials and travels of Quintus Dias, a Roman soldier sent to conquer what is now England with the fabled 9th Legion. His archnemesis and pursuer Etain is a Pictish warrior-tracker bent on vengeance for the Roman rape and slaughter of her family and the subsequent cutting out of her tongue.

Director Neil Marshall equates Etain’s violently-acquired speech disability with the assumption of an animal-like nature:

“Etain is kind of revenge incarnate. Her family were butchered by the Romans, she had her tongue cut out by the Romans, she’s had a hell of a time and she’s out for Roman blood,” Neil Marshall said. “She’s quite furious. Because one sense is not there – she can’t speak – all the others are more developed. She sees very well and hears very well: she is an animal!”

Indeed, throughout the movie Etain is referred to by such epithets as “she-wolf”, “demon”, “witch”… even by a fellow Pict who comments on her “stench” and taunts her with “Cat got your tongue?” The Romans are even worse in their abuse, assuming her lack of tongue and speech grants them sexual access.

With such fuel for revenge, it’s a small wonder she’s able to defeat Roman General Virilus in single combat.