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MCA: Three Rare Faces of Change

Article by: Taha Elkhalifa*

Watching the 2004 Swedish movie As It Is in Heaven directed by Kay Pallok, starring Michael Nyqvist as Daniel Dareus and Frida Hallgren as Lena, brings to mind two ideas. The first one is about the Quiet Revolution in Canada's Quebec, which denoted the socioeconomic changes in Quebec of the 1960's where the liberals and the leftists were able to ascend to power through election after the death of the late conservative Quebec Premier Duplessis. Those changes from conservatism to liberalism; from economic backwardness to development and progress were made possible by the nationalization of hydroelectric power from private companies and by imposing a public educational system that ended the sad control of the church over schools, colleges and universities. The second idea that the movie brought to my mind was about the magnificent short story written by the late Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez entitled The Handsomest Drowned Man in The World. My deep and heartily condolences go to lovers of narrative art on the occasion of the sad passing away of such a great international writer in April.

M. Nykvist
In the movie Daniel Dareus (Michael Nykvist), an international musician who has been nominated to various awards, returns to his village that is torn apart by domestic violence and a long history of bullying which victimized even Dareus himself. He tries to achieve a dream from his childhood to make everyone sing; to enjoy music by more than listening to it. Michael participates by leading the church chorus. During rehearsals for some scheduled shows change takes place in the lives of the villagers as they find solutions for families that pass through difficult times because of domestic violence, and ideas to resolve the consequences of bullying in the lives of its victims when they become grown ups. Ideas to make the church holds its responsibilities as a beneficial spiritual institution, and ideas to achieve the dreams of young girls such as Lena to find the lover who can suit her aspirations.

Esteban, the name given to the handsome drowned man’s body washed to the shore by the women of the village, was able to cause change in the village as handsome, inspiring and dead. His sudden presence as a dead body in the village transformed it from an arid place on both the natural and social levels to a place flourishing with love and throbbing with life.


As I think, the movie and the short story suggest that the execution of revolutionary change in a community might not always need mass demonstrations and/or military revolutionary actions that would overthrow the existing power and replace it by a new government that achieves programs which meet the demands of people for positive and progressive changes. According to the movie and the short story social progressive change can be brought about through peaceful, subtle and keen social processes that find the chance to impose change by letting creativity do its role in assembling the abilities and efforts of ordinary people to make positive change possible and attainable. Both the movie and the short story represent an account of social change in its broad meaning.

"Heaven is blue; hell is red"

The Quiet Revolution in Quebec was not more than necessary administrational procedures that led in the end to dramatic positive change in Quebeckers lives, the same as the presence of Esteban’s body in the village in Marquez’s story and similar to the return of Daniel Dareus to his village chasing his childhood dreams in the 2004 Swedish movie of Kay Pollak.
In the following YouTube clip, Swedish director Kay Pollak talks about his movie:

Summary of the Movie Plot

A successful international conductor suddenly interrupts his career and returns alone to his childhood village in Norrland, in the far north of Sweden.It doesn't take long before he is asked to come and listen to the fragment of a church choir, which practices 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.

As It Is In Heaven (2004) 

Genre:  Drama-Comedy-musical, 132 min.
Country: Sweden, Denmark.
Written by: Anders Nyberg, Ola Olsson and others.
Cast: Michael Nykvist, Frida Hallgren, Helen Sjoholm
Music Score: Stefan Nilsson
Directed by: Kay Pollak
As It Is in Heaven was nominated for Best Foreign Film at the 77th Academy Awards. It won several European prizes. The movie is available on YouTube in different languages, possibly in English.

* Taha Elkhalifa is a Sudanese Canadian scholar and the winner of a major literary prize in Sudan. He lives in Scarborough, Ontario.
Art by: Seif Laota.


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