SPOTLIGHT: Danish director Tea Lindeburg on making eerie period film “As In Heaven”

It’s been a busy year for Tea Lindeburg. When we first got in touch with her she was on the other side of the world, then the next moment she is in London for BFI London International Film Festival for the showing of her latest feature film As In Heaven.

As In Heaven follows an extremely tense and fraught night as our young protagonist Lise waits on the news of whether her mother has survived giving birth. The outcome could have huge consequences for the young girl on the brink of womanhood.

When did you first discover Flora Ofelia Hofmann Lindahl and how proud are you of her performance as Lise?

We started casting for the film about 8 months before the shoot. I had a great children’s casting director, Jette Termann, and we cast a lot of girls. I knew that finding Lise, was the first thing I needed to do and then build the rest of the cast around her. When Flora showed up, I was immediately blown away.

She has an honesty about her and I was immediately drawn by her rawness and sensitivity. At the time of the first casting, she was still very much a child and I needed her to be just on the verge between childhood and teenagehood. By summer she was and we finalized her as Lise.

She has an honesty about her and I was immediately drawn by her rawness and sensitivity.

Flora is a very talented young woman and I am so extremely proud of her. I could not have wished for a better girl to portray Lise. It was not an easy part to play but Flora put everything she had into that role and I think it clearly shows. 

The film is based on a novel by Marie Bregendahl which feels very true to her own life experiences – what drew you to bring this story to life?

I read the book shortly after my own son was born and I was so drawn to this story. Not only the labour of the mother as being the centrepiece of the story, something one never really sees, perhaps maybe except for the Bible. I was also so drawn to telling a story from this period the 1880’s, and set in the world of the women. 

But what really drew me was the children. And especially Lise’s character. How alone and outside they are during this life-changing night, how unable they are to make a difference, how they cling to hope and faith and try to bargain with God but at one point they just have to let go and let whatever happen, happen.

Lise must lean into that there’s a greater meaning in all of this, something that is out of her control, something she has no clue of understanding. However horrific that may be. We are all just little humans trying to make sense of this life we have been given in this unfathomable world.

What location did you film in and what challenges did you encounter bringing the period time frame to life?

The Production Designer, Jesper Clausen, was the first creative collaborator I got on board. He and I early on designed how we wanted the film to look, how true we wanted to be to the period, which colors we wanted to work with and we made a whole book that from then on was “the Bible”.

As the rest of the creatives came on, we always had that to refer to. This was very important work because we could always go back to that and make sure we were all on the same page in terms of costumes, colors, lighting, etc.

We shot As In Heaven in Fyn, the middle island in Denmark. Location was a very important factor for us because the location in itself is also a character, so we took a lot of time finding the right landscape and the right farm. It was not easy because we wanted to shoot on set and finding a house that has not been renovated from that period is hard! It also needed to have a specific layout, because so much of that location is seen through the eyes of children hiding and looking into the world of the adults so that definitely was a challenge.

But when we came across the farm we ended up shooting on, we were ecstatic. We knew this was “Broholm”. It even had the right tree in the courtyard that I had mentioned in the script. It was a sign!

As In Heaven has been performing really well on the festival circuit – how important has it been to be able to travel again and be present at the film festivals?

It’s been such a gift to be able to go to festivals in person and present the film. I get so much out of meeting the audience and experiencing their reactions, comments, and questions. It’s a strange process because for so long now, while you have been making the film, it’s yours and yours alone.

But when it’s done, the film starts to take on a life of its own. Just like a child moving out. Now it’s not mine anymore, I must give it away. Now the audience on the film, which is beautiful and also very nerve-wracking. You just have to pray they will treat it well but there’s no guarantee. You just have to let it go.

What movies have you had the opportunity to see whilst touring with As In Heaven – any recommendations?

I have honestly been so busy at the festivals with my own film and meetings etc that I, unfortunately, have not been able to watch as many films as I had hoped. But because Busan Film Festival had limited invitations to just the directors, we were a small group of directors who found each other and saw each other’s films.

I had a fun coincidence with Canadian director Dan Slater and his film “The Family” there because we had so many overlapping themes, both being period films and having God and faith playing a major part in the story and still, the films of course were so extremely different. 

With the film performing at BFI London International Film Festival can we expect at UK release in the future?

I hope so. I would love it. But you never know!

As In Heaven release in Denmark in January 2022 – any further releases we will let you know about and highly recommend that you get this on your Nordic Watchlist when it does!