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  • Michael Fargo15 March 2009
    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.
  • 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.
  • ferguson-612 April 2009
    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.
  • Warning: 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, though—an 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.
  • 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 become clearer.

    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
  • 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.
  • Mick-Jordan20 July 2009
    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.
  • 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.
  • Warning: 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 polio—these 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 family—that'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.
  • If you're searching for a historical period piece on Sweden's social history,or just hanker for a well written,directed,photographed & acted drama on family bonds,'Maria Larssons Eviga Ogonblick',or as it is being distributed in English speaking countries as 'Everlasting Moments' is the film for you. Sweden's Jan Troell (known in the U.S. for his 1971 film,'The Emigrants')directs,co-writes the screenplay (with Niklas Randstrom & Agneta Ulfsater Troell,based on a story by Ulfsater Troell),and photographs (with assistance from Mischa Gavrjusjov)this love letter to photography. The story concerns several years in the life of a housewife,named Maria Larsson (a care worn looking Maria Heiskanen),her mean,brute of an alcoholic husband,Sigge (Mikael Persbrandt),and their brood of children (with the narrative being told by their daughter,Maja (played by Callin Orhvall). Maria has won a camera in a lottery,and after is sits around for several years,is finally used for family portraits,special events,etc.,much to the chagrin of her controlling husband. What I truly admired about this film is that,in addition to being a chronicle of the tempestuous lives of the family,also acts as a history of Swedish social history as a backdrop (much like Bertolucci's '1900'). This is Swedish film making at it's best (it's a delight to look at,especially on a full screen,as well as it's story telling abilities). Well worth seeking out. Spoken in Swedish & Finnish with English subtitles. Not rated by the MPAA,this film has raunchy language,sexuality,and some disturbing moments of spouse abuse that will upset some,as well as pervasive alcoholism. Leave junior home.
  • This is a beautiful and engaging story about Maria Larsonn. Her life, her passions and her family. It is a biography and though I loved it, I am not sure everybody will because it lacks the contrived dramatic moments and a big climax associated with such stories. Instead it is like life itself, stuff happens, more stuff happens and then you die. Well I hope I am not putting people off from watching this film because it is lovely film and deserves to be seen. I just wanted to remark and it is a little unconventional.

    Though it seems that photography will become an important part in Maria's life, don't expect it to. It is just there in the background.

    The plot itself is nothing much too talk about. It is more about the characters rather the plot here. Acting is certainly amazing which brings the characters to life.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Just as the opening lines of a good novel should engage and inform, so should the opening scenes of a movie. The opening scenes of this movie are close-ups of an old Contessa camera accompanied by a gentle score. But it is the opening lines:

    "A week after mother met father she won a camera in a lottery. Father thought that the camera should be his as he'd bought the ticket. Mother said that if he wanted to share it, he'd have to marry her. So they got married."

    that hooked me. We know that the story will be about a camera, a marriage, and a family--and it will be told from the point of view of a daughter. The story teller is Maja, daughter of Maria and Sigfrid "Sigge" Larsson. The movie opens in Sweden 1907 and follows the Larsson family for over a decade.

    The marriage is what in contemporary parlance would be called rocky. Sigfrid is a handsome man and can be likable and entertaining, but he has two big weaknesses: women and alcohol. Unfortunately he succumbs to his weaknesses all too often. This behavior, together with the fact that money is tight and the family is large, puts a mighty strain on Maria who suffers through it until one day she happens on the old camera and decides to sell it to make ends meet. The photographer she takes the camera to for the sale, Sebastian Pedersen, looks at the single photo in the camera and envisions Maria as a special person (maybe because he is attracted to her) with perhaps a special talent. He loans her the camera and offers encouragement.

    The essence of the movie examines how Maria's growing interest in photography affects her and her family. This is an era when women were not expected to have any interests beyond taking care of the family, and Sigge is predictably jealous of Maria's new-found interest and behaves accordingly. But he is also just a little bit fascinated.

    For me the crucial scene is when Maria takes the camera back to Sebastian and wants to sell it, since she recognizes that her passion for photography is disrupting her relationships with her family. One of her sons had remarked that all she seemed to want to do was take pictures. But Pedersen tells her that once a passion has been excited it cannot easily be suppressed. Maria persists.

    The story encompasses historical events of the times, such as strikes (Sigge is a dock worker) and communist influences. One of Sigge's friends is a follower of Kropotkin.

    This is beautifully filmed and nearly flawless. The period details never seem artificial. You sense that this was a labor of love on Troell's part. In fact his wife is the great niece of Maja Larsson and wrote a book based on the real life Maria Larsson as told to her by Maja.

    All of the actors are good but Maria Heiskanen, as Maria, delivers a powerful performance in its understated subtlety. I can hardly think of a performance by an actress that I have been more impressed with.

    The Criterion Collection DVD contains an excellent one-hour biography of Troell that could stand on its own as a worthy viewing experience. For being a somewhat shy person I thought Troell revealed some very intimate things about himself.

    I wish there were more films like this.
  • Everlasting Moments (2008)

    This is a vivid, unsentimental, yet tender and loving portrayal of a Swedish seaside family in the early 20th Century. The brute is the father of the family, and yet he is fun and sometimes loving. The heroine is the mother, who suffers greatly, but who also can never quite break free of her husband. The children grow up and prosper, modestly, anyway, over the 15 years of the movie. And we come to see that this is pretty much the most common story of a working class family from that period, anywhere.

    And there is a small extra interest, because the mother discovers a camera among the family things, and is persuaded to learn how to use it. The scenes, interspersed over the years, where she takes pictures and develops them in a makeshift darkroom are beautiful, and yet they are not (thankfully) overblown into something momentous and artistically profound.

    My field happens to be the History of Photography, which I teach at a couple colleges here in Albany, and I have to say, they nailed the historical accuracy very well. I can't say for sure about when that camera was made, but it seems about right. More importantly, I can say that the style of the photographs is really typical for a talented, serious, dabbling amateur such as our leading woman. The size, the clarity, her care in holding it (even turning it horizontally for a key photograph), and the procedure in general is quite exactly how I would have advised a moviemaker to go about it. This helps not only people in the know (there aren't so many of us, I realize) but in general an historical validity in the bones of the movie.

    As elegant as the movie is filmed (almost to excess, in a few scenes--the cinematography outclassed by the simple, gorgeous use of light throughout), it comes across as hard and true. The film is beautiful, but life is beautiful. It's not easy, it involves losing some battles, it involves giving up some dignity, but if you stay the course, as these people do in ways most contemporary families would not, there is some other kind of reward.
  • There is still a place for the old tools and the old technologies. Despite the coming of Kindle, even Google's Eric Schmidt knows no better way to learn than to read a print book. Audiophiles know vinyl still sounds better than CD's, which in turn still sound better than MP3. The new technologies have their place. Their introduction stimulates the economy; they work better in certain contexts; they inspire new interest in the material they bear. Even a new pen might inspire one to write; a new computer, to do more research or writing. We don't have dip pens much any more, but they do still exist and have their use. Many still use so-called "outmoded" but artistically valid technologies. We still have fountain pens. We still need pencils.

    And so it is, very often, with styles: when new ones come along, they don't necessarily render earlier ones useless. Photography has not wiped out painting. Non-objective painting has not wiped out magic realism. Rap hasn't eliminated pretty tunes. The same is true for movies. Old-fashioned ones still have their place.But with the arts, if you're going to be retro, you have to prove you had a good reason for it. Andrzej Wajda's 'Katyn' (2007) and Jan Troell's 'Everlasting Moments'(2008) are test cases on this issue.

    Both are new movies that are traditional in their look, outlook, pace, and subject matter. 'Katyn' proves its worth more quickly, because it concerns an historical event, one that was hidden from view. The massacre of Polish officers by Russians in WWII and the attempt to blame it all on the Germans is history that needed to be told; it's the history of Wajda's own father, one of the slaughtered officers. Troell's film, concerning a working class Swedish family early in the last century, isn't quite as essential. Its Hallmark-sounding title is a hint that it's more nostalgia than history, and the story it tells, of a boorish husband and a wife struggling for independence, is in some ways only marginally memorable.

    'Katyn' is a film of slow cumulative power. It presents the atrocity before, during, and after through families and individuals. It depicts how people risked torture or extermination to resist the cover-up, and it ends with devastating simplicity by re-staging how the killing was done, very specifically what it looked and sounded like. Not much in 'Katyn' either in content or style seems distinctly 21st-century. Except for one thing: this story hasn't been told before. Now it has been, and beautifully. And since it concerns events of sixty years ago, an old-fashioned style is appropriate to it, as well as being a style of which Wajda is a master. The film may seem retro and boring to young viewers. Their cry, and others', sometimes is that WWII, especially the Holocaust (which perhaps by association links in with other massacres of the War), has been "done to death." (This is mainly just because there have been four or five well-promoted films on the subject in recent months.) But that is really nonsense. Some subjects are never sufficiently examined and can never be overdone, as long as an artist with a fresh angle "does" it.

    It's valid however, to say that Jan Troell's earlier period family sagas were richer and more involving than his new 'Everlasting Moments.' The whole thing is that this film is about a pretty ordinary Swedish family. But the interest of the film isn't so much in the small-town working-class family, the seven kids, the big womanizing drunkard father. It's in the interface between the wife, Maria Larsson (Maria Heiskanen) and the film's style. And this is where the film gradually but amply justifies itself. Heiskanen's face, often and lovingly filmed in closeup, is more memorable than any of the faces in 'Katyn.' The visuals consciously (and often remarkably) echo the subtle, even, naturally lighted tonalities of old glass plate negatives. (Early photographic equipment isn't as handy as today's, but that doesn't mean the photographs were inferior aesthetically.)

    Maria, wife of the cheery, powerful, but dangerous Sigge (Mikael Persbrandt), marries him owning a valuable camera she's won in a lottery. When things get tough, she decides to sell it. This leads her to go to Sebastian Pedersen (Jesper Christensen), a photographer with a shop, who refuses to let her sell it and instead takes her under his wing and falls quietly in love with her. Throughout the film and Sigge's skullduggeries and the family's economic travails, Maria uses the camera with increasing artistry. Along with this, the sweet platonic love affair with Sebastian continues, and he woos her with equipment, paper, plates, and lessons in developing photographs. The film is a celebration of the addictiveness of photography and the magic that happens in the darkroom. (Alas for digital camera users, to have lost that alchemical mystery!)

    The relationship between Maria and Sebastian would be worth a subtler, richer film by itself. But Troell likes family sagas. And history and sociology call upon him to focus on Sigge and the seven children. Unfortunately, though the film is narrated by eldest daughter Maja (Callin Ohrvall) and that adds logic to the focus on the mother, few of the other children are well individualized. The film is somewhat at cross purposes this way, with its unique story about a woman artist who's also a passionately dedicated mother constantly interrupted by its lumbering family history. (But that was also Maria's life.) Unlike other Troell films, this feels sometimes too long, sometimes too short. But despite the conventional, old fashioned film-making or perhaps because of it, the photographic story and the counterpoint in the film's own on screen images, 'Everlasting Moments' more than justifies its existence. Perhaps not as historically essential as Wajda's 'Karyn,' for many of us, and particularly for a lover of still photography (and darkroom magic) like myself, Troell's film, whether "essential" or not, winds up being more emotionally involving.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This movie was an enjoyable surprise to me, really worth watching. I don't speak Swedish or know of the director. I just saw it at the Aero in Santa Monica, where they screened the foreign film Golden Globe nominees, and I'm so glad I caught it.

    It's set in Sweden back in the day, before and during WW I, and it follows the life of this Wife and Mother, and her family. This woman is a rock, and she's the soul and center of this story. She's got hardships out the wazoo, mainly an ever-growing number of mouths to feed during a war, and a drunken, philandering, impulsive, and abusive husband to deal with.

    She won a camera in a lottery before she was married, and, never having used it, tries to sell it for the cash. The old gentlemanly proprietor of the camera shop sees a chance to share his passion, and sets her up with film and developer and whatnot. Thus begins a friendship, maybe a platonic love-affair, between the two based on the power and beauty of picture-taking.

    And, as any film concerning photography should, this one looks Just Great. It's got a grainy sorta washed-out look that really takes you away to that time and place. But it also serves the tone and feel of her story really well. It takes you with her inside, into her picture- taking.

    This is what I dug so much about this movie, was its take on the possibilities provided by photography, and Art in general. Where making art can take a person. This woman has such a bunch of trials and troubles, her family life is so stocked with drama, set against a backdrop of World War and labor strife. And yet she's able to transcend to some higher levels, and get something out of it, maybe make a little sense of it, whenever she takes out the camera and uses it.

    The different reactions and repercussions to her taking up photography are awesome. And the moments where we witness her really starting to get into it are so cool. The actress is so so good, and while she's a more-or-less ordinary-looking woman, when she's seeing her results of her picture-taking, her eyes just light up with such a subtle fascination and beauty. It's awesome.

    And for this stuff, the movie's a Must-See for folks who are into Photography &/or Film-making. We get to witness this woman's entry into her Artistic Space.

    The photo-shop proprietor looks at her pictures and says "It's not everybody who really has the Gift of Seeing."

    If you're down with that notion like I am, then See This Movie.
  • Based on the true story of working-class housewife and part-time photographer Maria Larsson, Jan Troell's film required financing from five different countries, and was almost five years in the making. When Maria Larsson (Maria Heiskanen) discovers a valuable camera in her home, she takes it to a pawn shop in order to raise some money when her husband Sigfrid (Mikael Persbrandt) loses his job. The shop owner Pedersen (Jesper Christensen) takes a special interest in the camera and shows Maria its sentimental value by demonstrating the way it manages to capture light in order to photograph an image. Having to care for her family while her abusive husband goes on strike at the shipyards, she finds solace in taking pictures as favours for the townspeople, and discovers she has a natural talent for capturing the true art of everyday life.

    Filmed in grainy sepia, the cinematography manages to capture the feel of the 1900-era that we modern people see only through old photographs and silent films. It's an ingenious decision as the both looks beautiful, and helps transfer the viewer into a time that we can only experience through the work of people like Maria Larsson. Credit must go to Heiskanen who captures both the suffocating pressure of her characters situation, and her stiff-upper lipped determination and strength to maintain her love for photography that is opposed by her hard-drinking husband. Persbrandt is excellent too, helping develop Sigfrid as a fully-realised character, struggling with both the class situation and the influx of British workers that are taking the jobs while he and his co-workers strike and live in near-poverty. A beautiful film, sensitively handled by the director.

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  • There is a certain look, pace, feel and sensibility to the Swedish/Danish film-making style, particularly when depicting the horse and buggy era. This fine film by Jan Troell is a product of that aesthetic and brings to mind the work of other Scandinavian masters such as Ingmar Bergman, Bille August, Bo Wildeberg and Gabriel Axel. This is a story of simple people who struggle mightily against great odds, presented in such as way as to give us a visceral sense of their ordeals. Here is a director who can bring the distant past to vivid life and whose obvious love for his medium is reflected in the subject of the story he wrote himself. The period of the film is roughly 1907-1917 before Sweden became a social democratic welfare state and the story frequently touches on the class antagonisms that led to it. But there is virtually no point made in this film that lacks counterpoint, down to the very last line uttered before the closing credits. There are no easy answers here, no final, neat, beribboned conclusion that sends us away satisfied. Nothing sentimental to gush about, but something lasting, just as the film's title suggests.

    In form, the film is a grown woman's narrated memoir that wavers in emphasis from her father to her mother. The father (acted with textured skill by Mikael Persbrandt) is alternately magnetic and obnoxious, sensitive and brutish, depending on his whim. When he drinks, which he does on impulse despite best intentions, he is a terrifying, overbearing boor; when he is sober and in a good mood, he is the dream father - the charming, strong, fun-loving pillar of the family. But this family is not lucky enough to have the latter without major doses of the former. Luckily, the mother (superbly played by Maria Heiskanen) has her head firmly screwed on and not only manages to endure her husband's abuses while raising seven children in poverty but also finds time to learn how to use a Contessa camera which the narration tell us she won in a lottery shortly before she married. When, in a fit of financial desperation during a strike that finds her husband unemployed, she asks the gentle proprietor of a photography studio (Jesper Christensen) about the value of the camera, he compassionately persuades her not to pawn it but to use it. She allows him to coach her into mastery of this new-fangled device, thereby launching a hobby that helps make ends meet and adds luster to her grim tenement life while bringing joy and wonder to her family and neighbors. Even her husband eventually overcomes his initial grudge against her new preoccupation.

    The story seesaws from highs to lows, from bitter fights to tender reconciliations, from hopelessness to hope, with periodic moments of breathless suspense when life itself hangs by the slenderest thread. It depicts a society in transition, half in the Christian, semi-rural monarchic past and half in the secular, amoral, motorized future. In a sense, it is the story of Sweden itself. I couldn't help noting that the tenement shown in this film resembles the kind of building Greta Garbo was raised in. She was born in the same era, came from laboring parents and grew up to be absorbed by the new international technology of cinema, just as the heroine of this film is at one point enchanted by early motion pictures, to which she takes her children, leaving the grumbling, uncomprehending father to tend to his horse in the stable.

    The cinematography makes even poverty look beautiful (perhaps a bit too much so) and each character is achingly well acted by a very well directed ensemble. The pace is rather slow, but there is so much to care about that the viewer willingly waits patiently for one scene to flow into the next. All in all, an outstanding work that seems to embody the very spirit of its own story – the everlasting moment captured by a camera in the hands of someone with the great gift of seeing.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This is an interesting Swedish film about a woman, Maria Larsson, who lived in the early twentieth century in Malmo. The film is based on true events and is in Swedish with subtitles, so if you're not into reading subtitles you'd probably better stop reading now. Before I tell you what I think of it, I'll give you a short synopsis.

    We begin in 1907 where Maria, her husband Sigfrid and their three children are living in Malmo. Sigfrid, or Siggi to his friends, works on the docks and, when he's had a drink, he is prone to hit his wife and the children. Maria pleads with him to stop drinking, which he does for a while and then he's back into the same routine. One day Maria finds a camera and, because money is short, she decides to take to a photographic studio to see if she can sell it. The owner, Mr Petersen, takes pity on her and, rather than buying the camera, he shows her how to use it. She takes her pictures back to the shop and Mr Petersen helps her develop them. He is impressed and gives her developing chemicals and photographic paper so she can continue. Mr Larsson by now is having a hard time at the docks, Socialism is spreading across Europe and a strike is called. Maria continues to take photographs on and off and after the outbreak of World War One, one is chosen to be printed in the newspaper. As time passes the family grows larger and Siggi begins to have affairs with other women, but Maria stays with despite all his bad ways.

    The story is narrated by her eldest daughter, Maja, whose perspective gives the film an interesting narrative. A well made film which, if slowly paced, gives an insight into life in Sweden around the turn of the twentieth century. Decent performances from all of the main cast: Maria Heiskanen as Maria Larsson, Mikael Persbrandt as Sigfrid Larsson, Jesper Christensen as Sebastian Pedersen and Callin Öhrvall as Maja Larsson (age 15-22).

    I quite enjoyed this film, although it has a slow pace, but you're never quite sure what will happen next. I have seen some of Maria Larsson's work on various TV shows about photography and she certainly had an eye for it. In the end it's quite a touching story about a woman torn between her passion for photography and her love of her family. Just one comment about the subtitles, why do the people who put subtitles on films insist on keeping to just one colour, sometimes the background is the same colour as the text and it's impossible to read! (OK, rant over) Over all, recommended for those that can deal with the subtitles.

    My score: 7.3/10
  • EVERLASTING MOMENTS ('Maria Larssons eviga ögonblick') is a quiet, gentle masterpiece of film-making. The screenplay by Niklas Rådström, based on a story by Agneta Ulfsäter-Troell and director Jan Troell, is so free of the expected extended dialogues that accompany films of this nature that it allows the magic of the period piece set in early 20th century Sweden to rely on the beauty of the cinematography by Mischa Gavrjusjov and Jan Troell and the subtle and simple film score by Matti Bye (with a little help from Massenet!). Filmed in the color scheme suggestive of the distinguished Danish painter Vilhelm Hammershøi, never straying far from sepia tones that ignite the solitude and light of the Nordic countries, this film could probably be successful as a silent movie - that is how powerful the production is.

    We are told in the voice over introduction that Maria Larsson (the exceptional Finnish actress Maria Heiskanen) won a camera in a lottery and the only way she would share the strange prize would be if her boyfriend Sigfrid (Mikael Persbrandt) would marry her. The couple marries and begins a large family: Maria takes in sewing and Sigfrid works at the docks - and drinks to excess. Maria's world becomes progressively unhappy and though she continues to have children she longs for a life free of the influence of Sigfrid's alcoholism and womanizing. She finds her hidden camera and thinking to pawn it for money to support her children she seeks the advice of an older photographer Sebastian Pedersen (Jesper Christensen) who convinces her to discover the magic of photography as a means of expression and makes it possible for Maria to keep her camera and learn the art of photography. In Maria's oppressive life there is now a light as seen through the lens of her camera that allows her to sustain herself through times of social change, war (WW I), Sigfrid's imprisonment, and a clandestine love affair with the kind and caring Sebastian. The story moves slowly, like a stroll in the wintry woods, and introduces many characters whose significance grow through the film. The ending of the story is as gentle as a dream, or as an everlasting moment. It is sheer magic. For this viewer this is one of the finest films to come along in years. In Swedish and Finnish with subtitles. Highly recommended.

    Grady Harp
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Before the first World War, Maria Larsson, a woman with several children and a not too bright husband who drinks, is barely getting by. Life is crushing her driving out all of the color. One day she finds a camera and slowly comes back to life. Slow brooding tale of life lived is a visual treat. Shot to resemble old film and photographs the film's look changes as Maria comes to life. What was once static shots, move, what was once black and white becomes color. In its way its life as film. The look of the film, the composition of shots and creation of sequences is pure magic. There were times when the simple beauty of the images had tears rolling down my eyes. Its the cinematic parallel of the moment where the photographer who has been giving Maria chemicals and film forgiving the debt in exchange for a copy of one her photographs, its a film so beautiful that you need to possess it.(I think I'll pick this up on DVD at some point). This is a very good film, and I like it a great deal, but I'm not overly in love with it. The reason has to do with my own tastes and not those of the film. I'm not a person who tends to gravitate toward films that deal in bleak lives. Certainly things do brighten once Maria finds the camera, but at the same time its still a hard hard life. My foibles aside, I do recommend the film, especially if you can see this on a big screen with a good resolution. There are images and moments that will take your breath away.
  • elision105 January 2020
    Yes, it's a good movie with interesting, sympathetic characters. And it's about a time and place -- Sweden in the early 1900s -- that I, and likely many others, won't be familiar with. So a lot of the historical background was revealing.

    But two hours-plus is just too long for a movie with little tension and no real climax. After about an hour and a half I thought "enough already."
  • My ten stars go to the full-length version I saw at an art house last year. I loved it so much I got the DVD (from the UK) -- for which, watch out! It clips about 25 minutes off! The deleted scenes flesh out the male lead's character and the dangerously dark mood of his place and time and thus make him, his marriage, and, thus, Maria, decidedly more complex; they thus make the film more challenging. This regrettable decision dampens down the film's energy and thus, paradoxically, makes it seem slower and longer. As stensson correctly said above, "Not a second too much in any scene" -- so no need for this bad move. Still I'd give even the short version 8 or 9 stars.
  • The debate over whether photography can be considered an art form has been going on since the early 19th century, yet one thing is certain – to be successful, a photograph must combine both technical excellence and inspiration. Like most artistic endeavors, taking quality pictures can be a transforming experience. As photographer Jan Phillips stated, "There is something about this work, something healing about this search for the light." This was definitely the case for Maria (Maria Heiskanen), a beleaguered housewife in Jan Troell's lovely Everlasting Moments, who uses her camera as a means of saving her soul and probably her sanity.

    The film, Sweden's submission for an Oscar in 2008 for Best Foreign Film, was adapted by Troell from a novel written by his wife Agneta that was based on the life of a member of her family, Maria Larsson. Set in Sweden in the early 1900s, the real Maria's life story and photographs are shown in the film which is brimming with period detail and strong characterizations. Maria must scrape out a living sewing and cleaning to support a family of seven children while putting up with philandering and abusive husband Sigfrid (Mikael Persbrandt), who works sporadically as a laborer when he is sober. Though he joins the local Temperance Society, his will is not very strong and he repeatedly falls off the wagon.

    Up against repeated financial problems, Maria offers to sell the camera that she won in a lottery but is persuaded by the camera shop owner Sebastian Pedersen (Jesper Christensen) to first try and use it herself, though he agrees to purchase it in the future. Buoyed by Sebastian telling her that, "not everyone is endowed with the gift of seeing," Maria begins to take photos under Sebastian's guidance and is astonished at the wonders it performs. She begins to capture some of the everlasting moments of the film's title, using her gift of "seeing" to supplement the family income. Slowly she develops her art while having to constantly fend off Sigge's jealous tantrums.

    Maria takes portraits of her neighbors at Christmas, a stunning image of a recently deceased young girl lying on a table, a parade of Socialists seen from her window, a street puppeteer, and an image of the shadow of a zeppelin flying overhead. Sebastian encourages Maria to develop her skills and is ecstatic when one of her photographs is used by the local newspaper. He offers her a job in the studio but she turns it down because of her family obligations. Troell even implies that the photographer has fallen in love with her but conventions at the time do not permit its expression.

    The drama depicts Maria's courageous struggle to stay afloat financially when her husband is either not working or is sent to prison for drunkenness or threatening behavior towards his family. Daughter Maja (Callin Ohrvall), the film's narrator, helps the family considerably by taking care of her younger siblings and by working as a maid for a wealthy family until she is assaulted by the woman's brother. In spite of all logic and seeming common sense, she stays with Siegfried, influenced by her father's reminder of her sacred oath made during the wedding ceremony to stay together, "till death do us part." Everlasting Moments is rich in the quality of the performances, especially that of Maria Heiskanen as the courageous woman who breaks through her limitations of gender and class to experience life in a new way. Jesper Christiansen is equally strong as the devoted friend who encourages her to keep going when she wants to quit. Though Maria does not become famous or wealthy from taking pictures, her art allows her to keep up her spirits during her most difficult periods. Kudos are due to the immense talent of 78 year-old director Jan Troell, noted for The New Land and Hamsun, who, in Everlasting Moments, infuses the dark shadows of a troubled life with ineffable beauty.
  • SnoopyStyle4 November 2020
    This is the story of Maria Larsson as narrated by her oldest daughter Maja. She won a camera in a lottery and ends up marrying the charming Sigfrid Larsson. At the time, she doesn't realize that he's a volatile drunk and he starts womanizing after some time in their marriage. He's a stevedore and gets involved with socialists. She befriends photograph shop owner Sebastian Pedersen who mentors her on photography. After receiving a beating from Sigfrid, she takes her kids to her father who commands her to return to her husband. His common refrain is that a marriage is to the death and over the years, it sometimes comes close to that.

    This is a Swedish film about a real marriage story based on real people. It just feels real. There is real tension and filled with real characters. It made it to the short list for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film but didn't get on the final list. This is a monument to strong women who suffered and survived.
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