slain by beauty

What is it about films with choirs? Or is it films from Scandinavia with choirs?

First, there was Oh Happy Day. And last night, my sister made me watch As It Is in Heaven. She bought the DVD as a Christmas present for herself and so far, I’d resisted watching it. Why? I knew it was going to be sad. I could tell from the title.

She assured me that yes, she’d cried upon first watching it. And yes, she’d probably cry again this time as well. Not because it was sad, but because of the beauty. After that, I was even more sure that it was going to be sad.

I don’t dislike films that are sad. My problem is that I get so very emotionally involved. I sink completely into a film, a book, a story, characters and people. And not just for the duration of watching or reading – every time this happens, a little bit of me gets changed forever. I hope for the better. It’s too painful a process to go through otherwise. Beauty can slay you.

To avoid that pain, in recent years, I’ve opted for light and forgettable, funny or serious, action, mystery – anything but emotion and depth and beauty. I was afraid of what it would do with me. (For an impression on what beauty does to me, you can have a look at some of my older posts, when I was very much engaged with the topics of beauty and stillness – here, for example, or here or here – or, for good measure, try this or this.)

I have promised myself to be courageous this year, however. So I was. And you cannot imagine how much I tried to stay in my head, watch with a detached, analytic attitude. I couldn’t hold it up past the first three minutes. Throughout the movie, I got angry, scared, experienced that choking feeling that goes with a sudden and intense romantic scene, felt wistful, afraid, joyful, thoughtful, sad, happy.

It was a wild and beautiful ride of emotions. And to say that I cried at the end would not tell you a tenth of the truth. I choked. Tears streamed down my face. I clung to my sister’s hand as she clung to mine, reassuring each other and all the time not taking our eyes off the screen, not even daring to blink as the inexpressible was expressed in pictures and sounds and filled every cell in my body until it hurt.

The aftereffects? I slept very bad. I always sleep easily and deeply. Last night I didn’t. And when I slept, I dreamed. And when I woke, this was all I could think about. And I’m still under the spell.

If you can, and if you’re up to an intense experience, watch this movie. Don’t read reviews or summaries, just take heart and watch. It’ll be worth it. I’ll leave you with one of the key scenes, which works beautifully by itself (what a song!), but is a hundred times more intense still in the context.


About wordsurfer

writer, ex-teacher, human rights believer & fighter, traveller, adventure-seeker, freedom lover, global citizen. big on daydreams, less so on reality.

Posted on January 16, 2013, in day-to-day and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. I wonder what’s the point of living when you try to shut out the emotions because of fear of them? shouldn’t you be thankful that you are so sensitiv that you, just by imagination or watching can feel so much love and hope and, yes, even fear? because life is real and happens! and of cause while it is not good to get broken by those feelings it is good to exercise, use and be aware of them!

  2. Anna Scott Graham

    Some very beautiful and intriguing posts you have there!

    One of my fave films that sort of has a choir and was made in Norway is Babette’s Feast. So much fascinates me about that movie, makes me glad to know it exists.

    I’ll look into As It Is In Heaven; if nothing else, that clip was marvelous! And of course now I want to know about the clapping…

    • I’ll take a look into Babette’s Feast then. Although maybe not until next week, because somehow my eyes still feel swollen from three days ago and I’m not that keen to cry the whole night again. I adore books, but movies… the emotions are so much more immediate and there are things you can do visually that would be very hard to convey with words, at least in the same intensity.
      The song is amazing, isn’t it?

  3. I cry as well. I try to watch sad movies either at home or with people who know that no matter how hard I try I’ll cry. Recently saw Les Mis in the theater. Yep, I cried. Sad books–I cry. Sad commercials on TV–I cry.

    • Sad commercials? 🙂
      Yeah, I think all my friends know by now that I will embarrass them at the cinema. I don’t care either way, but for them it can be a bit awkward. Worst was when I had a bit of a breakdown after watching The Reader and the people were queuing to get in for the next film and I couldn’t get up and walk.
      The crying is one thing though, but getting really, really angry is something else completely. There have been films that have reduced me to screaming and tearing my hair out in frustration at the injustices of the world. Have you done that before as well or am I just mad?
      Of course, there’s also the option of being struck dumb. Can’t speak at all for an hour or two afterwards. Writing all this down makes me feel like a serious headcase.

      • Haven’t had the anger problem. I get mad at some movies and won’t speak about it for some time. But I don’t think you’re crazy–just passionate. I cried for quite some time after Sophie’s Choice and Life is Beautiful. Saw the Reader and was able to get myself under control before I had to leave the theater. I love and hate these movies.

  4. free penny press

    i am a very emotional person when it comes to movies, songs, even a television commercial.. I will cry and cry..If I am moved, I just can;t help it.I don’t see that as a bad trait, might make for some mascara smeared faces though..
    As for a choir, well they seem to go deep in my heart and yes, I weep..

    • You’re the second person to mention sad commercials. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one. It seems somewhat counterproductive to have a commercial that will make people cry.
      No, I don’t see it as something bad either, but it can be exhausting to feel so many intense emotions. Like at the moment: even four days later, I still wake with that song in my head and my heart is still smarting for the hurts of the people in the story.

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