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BERLINALE 2008 Panorama Special / Sweden

Marriage as a battlefield

by 

Simon Staho, the most Swedish filmmaker of Danish origin, unveiled his Heaven’s Heart [+see also:
trailer
film profile
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last night as part of the Berlinale Special. The well-crafted chamber piece about marriage is played by a virtuoso quartet of top Swedish talents: Mikael Persbrandt, Lena Endre, Maria Lundqivt and Jakob Eklund.

An Ingmar Bergman’s Scenes from a Marriage revisited? “Certainly not!” said the young filmmaker during the post-screening Q&A session, “because [Bergman’s] film belongs to the past. Bergman is dead and you can’t be influenced by someone who’s dead. It’s like Latin, a dead language!”

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Staho’s new film nevertheless follows in the pure Swedish tradition of human drama and totally lives up to it. Structured like a play, the film starts as a flashback: Lars (Persbrandt) and Susanne (Endre) are filing for divorce.

Flashback to nine months earlier: We see them happily together, preparing for a dinner party. The dinner party during which their marriage – apparently solid as a rock – and their best friend’s marriage will be shaken and put to test. All it takes to kill each couple’s false sense of security and happiness is a casual conversation about a colleague’s adulterous relationship. “What if that were me? or us?” are the questions that each partner starts to ask him or herself.

Like musicians asked by a conductor to follow their sheet music, Staho’s actors scrupulously follow the lines from his script and his storyboard. The words are cruel in all their truth, hitting each middle-age married couple right in the heart. The violence of the emotions is enhanced by the interiors – with almost no furniture and set design – and the music (single, classic instruments) stripped to the bare essentials.

The film was produced by Zentropa’s Swedish production arm Trollhättan Film AB, in co-production with Sonet Film, XX Film, Film i Väst, Pan Vision AB, SVT with support from the Swedish Film Institute.

Worldwide distribution is handled by Trust Film Sales. The film will open in Sweden on February 28.

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