Daniel Dareus (played by Michael Nyqvist) is a successful maestro conductor. However, the hectic international lifestyle has taken its toll on Daniel and he suffers a sudden health scare. Without warning, he leaves his high profile career and returns to the village of his childhood in Norrland, far north Sweden. Daniel spent the first ten years of his life here, but he was severely bullied and eventually his mother (his father had died) moved the family elsewhere to save Daniel any further trauma. When he arrives back in Norrland, Daniel keeps to himself but, of course, the villagers are all very curious of him. The village Pastor, Stig (by Niklas Falk) attempts to bring him into the fold, then the happy young woman who runs the grocery store, Lena (by Frida Hallgren), tries to connect with him and he gets another attempt when he visits the village businessman, Arne (by Lennart Jahkel) to buy himself a bicycle for transport. The villagers soon discover that Daniel is a famous maestro and Stig asks him to come and help to the struggling church choir. He comes along to listen and realises that all the villagers he’s already met (apart from Stig) are in the choir. It has several other fascinating participants – such as Stig’s wife, Inger (by Ingela Olsson) who has lived the pious life of a Pastor’s wife and feels “hemmed in” and Gabriella (by Helen Sjoholm) who is living in a violent marrage and finds the choir a wonderful release. On his first visit, Daniel offers some advice but then quickly departs. As time passes, he gradually develops more of an interest in the choir and realises he has a passion for their development when they respond well to his coaching and he starts to see results. As the story unfolds, both supporters and doubters emerge – he discovers he has friends and enemies – and he is surprised to find love.
This movie is a slow burn. I really liked it because the characters are all fascinating. Each is an enigma and not one of them is what they appear on the surface. The best portrayals of their character are Lena, Gabriella and Inger – each performed beautifully by Frida Hallgran, Helen Sjoholm and Ingela Olsson respectively. You don’t realise it when you’re watching it, but the movie will take hold of you – then ending is not what you expect.
This was Sweden’s official submission for Best Foreign Film at the 2005 Academy Awards
Made in 2004. Directed by Kay Pollak