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I recently saw this at the 2009 Palm Springs International Film Festival and it would be among my favorites of this years festival. Everlasting moments was Sweden's official entry for the 81st Academy Awards and although not nominated it did make the short list of nine and it was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Set in the port city of Malmo in Southern Sweden beginning in the year 1907 it tells the story of Maria Larsson (Maria Heiskanen) and her hard working dock worker husband Sigfrid (Mikael Persbrandt) who is abusive to Maria and battles the bottle and infidelity issues. Maria is a Finnish immigrant married to the Swedish Sigfrid and they have a rocky marriage but Sigfrid is a good provider when sober and they start a large family. Maria once won a camera in a lottery and is considering selling it when the Danish owner of a photography shop, Jesper (Sabastian Pederson) convinces her to use the camera and become an amateur photographer. It begins a long friendship between Jesper and Maria much to the chagrin of Sigfrid. The story is told in narrative by the Larsson's daughter Maja (Callin Ohrvall) as she remembers the hardships of life in early 20th century Sweden and the strengths of her mother that kept the family together. It's kind of reminiscent of the 40's film classic I Remember Mama. A wonderful story based on the remembrances of a real life Maja who lived from 1902 to 1991. From veteran director Jan Troell its a beautiful period piece with wonderful cinematography by Mischa Gaurjusjov and Troell himself. The attention to detail in reproducing the times is amazing from set designer Peter Bauman and costume designer Karen Gram. I would give this a 9.5 out of 10 and recommend it.
An exceptional story about a woman learning to be an artist in a restrictive time and place. The story, images, and acting are magnificent. Please take time to see this reflectively. The characters are strong and three-dimensional. The choices they make in the early part of the 20th Century probably aren't ones we ourselves might choose. It is a movie which shows subtlety and nuances. My friends and I loved this film for the strength of the woman, her yearning for self-expression, her ability to have artistic vision in an era where there was no encouragement,the delicate balance of the relationships and limitation of choices--given the hard realities of money and social constraints. You will find it moving.
Greetings again from the darkness. The best word I can come up to
describe this fine film is humanistic. Everything about director Jan
Troell's (The Emigrants) approach is based on the affect or reaction of
the individual, very human, characters.
Maria Heiskanen as Maria Larsson is fascinating ... in the most grounded, heartfelt style I have seen. She reminds of Imelda Staunton in her ability to sell grace and dignity despite all obstacles. This is not a film about some character's ability to make headlines. Rather it is one woman's battle for independence for herself and stability and safety for her seven children.
We may question why Maria insists on remaining with her violent-when-drunk husband, but she takes her father's counsel to honor her vows very seriously. She battles through much for her family but the true joy in the story comes from her awakening with a Contessa camera, courtesy of Sebastian Pederson (played well by Jesper Christensen). She discovers a god given talent and eye for photography.
This is a long film, but so realistically presented that it just compels the viewer to join in. Sadly, it won't find much of an audience in the U.S., but it is excellent film-making and a very rewarding journey.
Maria Larssons eviga ögonblick (2008), directed by Jan Troell, is
showing in the U.S. with the title "Everlasting Moments." It's an
unusual movie, and I enjoyed it, but it's hard to describe or review.
The film takes place in Sweden, roughly between 1900 and 1920. It's more or less an "I Remember Mama"-type memoir, narrated by the oldest daughter of a married working-class couple--Maria Larsson, played by Maria Heiskanen, and Sigfrid Larsson, played by Mikael Persbrandt.
Maria Heiskanen is a very attractive actor, but this part calls for her to appear relatively plain, which she manages to accomplish. (Sort of like Betsy Blair appearing as "the dog" in "Marty.") Her husband is a basically decent sort of guy, who was considered a good catch when they married. Unfortunately, he's a mean drunk and, even when sober, he's not always the best of spouses.
What makes Maria different is that she has won a camera in a lottery, and her ability to take photographs moves the plot forward, insofar as it moves forward at all.
The film more or less meanders along, with episodes that appear realistic enough, but that don't always seem to be heading in a clear direction from beginning to middle to end. Time moves forward, and people--and the actors who portray them--get older, but the movie doesn't unfold in an "A therefore B, B therefore C" sort of way.
This is a movie to watch if you don't demand sex or action, if you don't mind a slow pace, and if you don't mind a movie that appears to be shot more in sepia than in true color. I enjoy that kind of film, so I liked "Everlasting Moments." If your tastes don't run along those lines, I'd pass it by.
Incidentally, we saw the film in a theater, but I think it would work well on a small screen.
I was reluctant to see Jan Troell's film for fear it might not be
worthy of the experience of seeing his "The Emigrants"/"The New Land."
Ordinarily, I'd rush to see something by any good director, but those
two films were of such distinction, I hesitated.
Many of the same issues in "The Emigrants"/"The New Land" are here but we have it from the point of view of an artist and this film concentrates less on the art itself than the reason the artist needs to do it. It's a slight shift in focus than we usually get in biographies of artists, but it made this film something that's truer than, say, seeing Ed Harris ape Jackson Pollack dripping paint.
The rise of the middle class, WWI, labor unions, the demise of feudal monarchy, alcoholism, abortion, disability, codependency, feminism, and most importantly how industrial technology released the poor from dire existence to the opportunity (and leisure) of making art...and why that was important.
It's an ambitious film that feels as light as a shadow. While there is quite a bit of dialog, there's never any explanation despite extensive voice-over by a daughter of the subject of the film. We're shown why this woman needs to take photographs, and how she's introduced to it and the changes it brings lifts us up to the ecstasy she feels.
The circumstances of her marriage which is the primary focus of her suffering Troell renders with great sensitivity and understanding. The fact that the abusive husband, Mikael Persbrandt, almost steals the film is a testament to the compassion of the filmmaker.
But its the central character's actress, Maria Heiskanen, who takes a role that could have been maudlin and infuses it with a ferocious passion that stays in one's memory. No director could have wished for more in this performance.
Filmed in 16mm then transferred to 35mm, the passion of the main character for making images is clearly the director's own. One (of many) moments is so exquisite and complete: The lead character doesn't understand how photographs are made, and when she's shown with the image of a butterfly projected on her open hand, we're as astonished as she is.
That image is used again near the end of the film in a way that's masterful. I don't know if this movie is as good as "The Emigrants/New Land," but its worthy of the director who made that monumental work.
The title of this film is particularly apt in light of what it presents and how it does so. Obviously every photograph is an everlasting moment in itself but in this film they are moments that represent a time and a place. Maria Larsson's pictures show the plight of the poor in early 20th century Sweden; the Red Rallies that were sweeping through Europe and the coming of war through to the restoring of peace. All these events and how they affect the ordinary people of her little town are recorded faithfully by this simple downtrodden housewife in between fending off her drunken husband's advances and raising the seven or so children that result. While there isn't so much a plot to 'Everlasting Moments' there is still an engaging story. It opens in 1907 when Maria discovers a camera she had won some years before and put away and forgotten about. Times are hard and her first thought is to sell it and she heads to the local photographic shop run by Sebastien Federson. He manages to persuade her to wait a while, to try and get some use of the camera first before she decides to get rid of it and pretty soon Maria is hooked on her new hobby. Meanwhile her husband Sigge flits from job to job and pub to pub and makes home-life more and more a living hell. Maria keeps her camera a secret from him for as long as she can and uses it as her only means of escape she can't possibly leave her marriage, tearing asunder what God has joined together. While Sigge is all but openly unfaithful she herself has a chaste, platonic love with her mentor Sebastien. As Everlasting Moments takes you on its journey you just go with the flow, you forget that at some point this film is going to come to an end and in a way you don't really want it to. The acting all round is excellent and appropriately enough the photography is striking. The entire film looks like a faded photograph from the era, it's shot in colour but you have to regularly remind yourself of the fact by spotting something of colour in the scene. This just adds to the atmosphere, the feeling that you are not watching a film set in the early 1900s but in fact at a play - being performed in the early 1900s.
The story of the life of a more or less normal family as told by one of
its daughters. The most interesting families deliver the most
interesting stories and this is one of them - especially by the way it
is told and shown. A pivotal event in the life of the family is the day
where the mother wins a camera and starts using it to make pictures of
everything she deems interesting and/or important. The story is
constantly told using back-flashes and this works very well - as events
roll by the definition of the family is fully developed and as one gets
to know more and more of the people in the family one starts to
understand why some things are done the way they are done. With each
passing year in the story the bonds become closer and the pictures
It's a fairly long film but given all the things that happen that doesn't hurt the film at all. The color scheme used is very fitting and gives a nice extra effect, the choice of music is good too. Story telling is enticing and acting is well beyond the bare necessities to keep the film alive. So, all in all, a most enjoyable watch.
8 out of 10 mugshots of the past
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
What a gorgeous poster, and frankly a gorgeous film despite its hard
look at love conquering abuse, alcoholism, and the shattering of
dreams. Sometimes two people find themselves forgiving each other, not
out of weakness, but out of the underlying powerful love bonding them.
Academy Award nominee Jan Troell's new film Maria Larssons eviga
ögonblick, or Everlasting Moments here in the states, is a slow
unveiling of what it was like to live in Sweden as a below Middle Class
citizen, striving to feed your seven children and attempting to
survive. It pulls no punches and shows life in all its dirty ways,
engrained in the memories of all involved and displayed on film for our
viewing, much like the photographs taken by Maria Heiskanen's Maria
Larsson. These photos prove to her she is worth something in this
world, showing her a talent that is unappreciated by her cheating
husband, but viewed as magnificence from her tutor and friend Sebastian
Pederson, (Jesper Christensen), and those in the town she lives, even
helping to support them when times are tough.
Sometimes that admiration trickles down and changes people like her brutish husband, played by Mikael Persbrandt, and sometimes that change happens too late. So much occurs to make you angry with Maria for not leaving Sigge after any of the numerous chances he gives her. Following his drunken verbal lashes, his jealous rages forcing himself on her, or even his threats of murder with a knife against her neck, she always looks at him and finds that love she fell for years ago. When he comes back from jail sober and rested, he is a different man, but each time temptation ruins his redemption. Whether her father's declaration, upon Maria asking permission to divorce him, of "you will be together until death do you part" lingers at the back of her head or not, she always finds forgiveness. Her children grow up to realize what is happening between the two, even questioning her reasons for staying as well. It is a different time and having so many mouths to feed in a poor neighborhood negates some options. It is only in her camera, a fine Contessa, is she able to escape into a frozen reality where a smile stays forever. She wishes one day her life can remain static in that state as well, never falling back into the violence her Sigge is so capable of providing.
One may argue that the film portrays a weak woman staying with an abusive man, but I believe the story is more complicated than that. Sure Sigge is a horrible specimen of a human, without fail, but there is goodness inside of him. The pressures and stress of the times weighs heavy on everyone, yet manifest into anger when he can't quite handle it. Everlasting Moments becomes a study of love bonding together two people despite every worldly attempt to separate them forever. You almost begin to root for the Larsson family to survive it all, because you begin to see what could be.
What really works above all else is the style. What at first seems very straightforward soon becomes seen as a very specifically shot film. With muted tones you begin to feel as though you are spying on photographs from the start of the 20th century. I also loved the moments when we get to see the photos that Maria and Pedersen take, even at times looking through the viewfinder at the upside-down image being sent through the camera. Even a throwaway moment of Pedersen showing Maria a moth/butterfly through the lens of the camera against his hand becomes a moment of beauty. Every detail is meticulously placed and included, all becoming a part of a fully fleshed world once the characters begin to move around in it. Heiskanen is fantastic as Maria, coping with the troubles of her husband, expressing the happiness she feels behind her camera or with Pedersen, and embodying the maternal love for her children. Persbrandt is a revelation as well, playing Sigge. The children nail it correctly when saying he reminds them of the bad guy in Charlie Chaplin's film, but his ability to navigate the emotional parts, to have that tear roll down his cheek or to hold his dead friend in his arm, even the jubilance of seeing his horse still in its place once he returns from jail one last time, really show the man he is deep inside, beneath the hard exterior.
Jesper Christensen is my favorite, thoughan enigma to the proceedings. Is he a wishful suitor for Maria or just a man who desires talent? How much of his helping her pay for supplies stems from his feelings towards her or his eye in seeing the skill and potential to be a professional photographer? It's a wonderful scene at the end, one after we see the two of them in an exchange that hints at burgeoning love, where the unwritten and impossible love between them is shown. The camera bonds them forever; it was just bad timing that won't allow them to ever be together. This relationship is an important affair of the mind; one she needs to cope with the affairs of the flesh Sigge has behind her back. Their stolen moments together in the darkroom developing photos can almost be seen as more romantic than any she shares with another during the course of the film. They become her own everlasting moments, imbedded in her mind like the images held still on her developed stock. Maria Larssons eviga ögonblick may be long and trying at times, but for all the filler, the moments that work make it a worthwhile journey to take, watching the many forms of love and how when it seems all but lost, it rekindles and burns once more.
Jan Troell is the nestor in Swedish movies. He's got more than 40 years
of experience. And you're aware of it here. Not a second too much in
any scene. A total concentration in every millimeter.
It all takes place in Malmö, a city in southern Sweden, in the beginning of the 20th century. A worker with drinking and infidelity problems is married to this woman and they have plenty of children. It's a life of misery, but suddenly a new world opens to the woman. The world of photography. Another way of viewing.
After that nothing can really harm her. Not even the violence from her husband. Every detail is there it should be in this movie. Every button is at the right place in every suit, and it's also obvious for the audience what the director means by it.
To be shown at any film rookie school.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I have an old photograph of my mother when she was five years old
walking down the Boardwalk in Atlantic City in 1930 with my
grandparents and I often wonder what their lives were like at that
moment in time. Jan Troell's "Everlasting Moments" attempts to do just
that as he brings old family photographs to life in his sweeping family
saga set in Sweden at the turn of the century.
Everlasting Moments begins in the Swedish port city of Malmo in 1907. It's a true story based on the reminiscences of Maja Larrson who is the film's narrator. She takes us back to when she was a child and we're introduced to her parents Maria and Sigfrid (Siggie) Larrson. Siggie is a dock worker who also happens to be an alcoholic. Maria (wonderfully played by Maria Heiskanen) is his long-suffering wife. Although Siggie belongs to the Temperance Society he is continually relapsing and most of the tension in the film's first half revolves around the harrowing scenes of domestic violence in which Siggie uses his wife as a veritable punching bag.
Maria is under tremendous pressure, not only from the heartache of having to deal with her often drunk and philandering husband but also raising a brood of precocious children. One day Maria rediscovers an expensive camera that she and her husband had won in a lottery at the time they got married. She decides to take a picture of her children without her husband knowing about it and brings it to a local photography shop and meets the kindly shop owner, Sebastian Pedersen. Pederson is a bit older than Maria but they soon form a lasting friendship. Pedersen eventually shows Maria how to use the camera and develop pictures.
Meanwhile, we get a real feel for the history of the times as we see what happens to Siggie as he becomes involved with Socialist and Communist agitators who seek to unionize dockworkers in their fight against the shipowners. At one point British scabs are brought in and one of the strike breakers is murdered. Siggie is a suspect for a short while but is cleared after a local floozy who he's been having an affair with provides an alibi.
To Siggie's chagrin, Maria presses forward with her fascination with photography. Eventually she starts earning extra money taking photos of people in the community. In one sad and sensitive scene, Maria declines to charge a woman who asks her if she could take a picture of her daughter who has just died after falling through the ice wandering too far out on to a not so frozen pond. The image of the deceased girl is one of the many striking images of still photography seen in this film.
Things come to a head when Siggie suspects that Maria has been having an affair with Pedersen and brutally rapes her. As a result, Marie is pregnant with another child who ends up with polio. Finally, Siggie takes things too far and drags Maria outside and almost slits her throat with a knife. As a result, he's arrested and thrown in jail (presumably there were neighbors who were witnesses to this horrible act but we never see them nor are there any scenes of Siggie being arrested and brought before a magistrate).
While I expected Maria to leave her husband and go off on her own running her own photography business, that's not what happens in the film's denouement. Instead, Maria stops taking photos for quite awhile and loses contact with Pedersen after the family moves to a different part of town. After Siggie gets out of jail, Maria decides to stick it out with him. Some say it was Maria's memories of her father exhorting her never to leave her husband since it was "God's will" or perhaps it was simply Maria's conservative nature. More likely it was Siggie eventually becoming more mature. He gives up the bottle, starts running a successful moving company and becomes a decent family man. It should be pointed out that Siggie is only a monster when he's drunk. Other times he's shown to be a sensitive man (in one scene, he prevents a man from abusing a horse in the street).
Maria's farewell to Pedersen is a poignant and bittersweet moment in the film. The two part knowing that their relationship was never meant to go further than it did. Pederson's shop is like an oasis for Maria while she's trying to cope with her husband in the early years. Although Pedersen is not a very 'exciting' character, and there's little conflict between the two, he's a soothing and supporting presence, contrasting nicely with the brutal and oppressive Siggie.
Some of the other characters in the film are not sufficiently developed. Siggie's 'anarchist' buddy who commits suicide due to an fulfilled life is one such character. Maja, the film's narrator, has a brief scene where she's almost molested by an employer while working as a housekeeper and then there's the youngest son who's briefly seen trying to cope with the ravages of poliothese characters and scenes seem almost like afterthoughts.
Nonetheless, 'Everlasting Moments' is still filled with indelible, everlasting moments and images (especially check out the effect that Charlie Chaplin had on the Larrson familythat's a scene you won't forget!). Jan Troell's look into the past is not sentimental but more wistful. And even more important, he teaches us about the trials, tribulations and the sacrifices made by the older generation as they stumbled into a firm and rewarding maturity.
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