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After a breakdown, successful but lonely and tired international conductor Daniel Dareus (Michael Myquist) interrupts his career and returns to his childhood village of Norrland, in the far north of Sweden. He is asked to listen to the fragment of a church choir, which practises every Thursday in the parish hall. Just come along and give a little bit of good advice. He can't say no, and from that moment, nothing in the village is the same again. The choir develops and grows. He makes both friends and enemies. And he finds love.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Internationally famous conductor Daniel Dareus (Michael Myquist) goes from being a big fish in a big pond to being a big fish in a small pond when he returns to his childhood village in search of peace and rest. But he stirs up painful memories and jealousies, when he takes on the role of choir master in the tiny community. The choir is a platform for bringing characters together but also for revealing the chasms within the village and within relationships. The rural setting underlines the isolation of the village, focusing the drama to its very core elements: the nature - and the danger - of community.

The danger ranges from domestic violence to intolerance of all kinds, often seething under the surface of genteel neighbourliness.

But the screenplay digs somewhat deeper still when the pastor's wife Inger (Ingela Olsson) confronts her husband (Niklas Falk) with her buried secret of 20 years: she doesn't believe there is sin ... it's an invention of the church, so it can offer absolution. The confrontation is triggered by the sweeping changes that Daniel's passion for music has brought to the community. And feelings about religion are not the only kind she has repressed ...

The ructions make for gripping drama on a human scale, something Swedish cinema has always excelled at. The title brackets the basic human need for happiness and its spiritual equivalent, themes with which the film deals in subtle but powerful ways. Director Kay Pollak, who co-wrote the screenplay, handles the material with the maturity equal to his years (66 when he made the film in 2004), balancing humour and drama with a deft touch, and weaving in the healing of romance through Daniel falling in love with the vibrant and sensitive Lena (Frida Hallgren). Some may find the melodramatic ending is unsuited to the film's tone, but might well forgive that one negative, given the many pluses.

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(Sweden, 2004)

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CAST: Michael Nyquist, Freda Hallgren, Lennart Jahkel, Ingela Olsson, Niklas Falk, Helen Sjoholm

PRODUCER: Anders Birkeland, Goran Lindstrom

DIRECTOR: Kay Pollak

SCRIPT: Kay Pollak

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Harald Gunnar Paalgard

EDITOR: Tomas Tang

MUSIC: Stefan Nilsson

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Mona Theresia Forsen

RUNNING TIME: 127 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 30, 2006

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