Everlasting Moments: Sweden's Oscar Entry

Sweden

 

Jan Troell, the vet Swedish filmmaker, is a serious, respected writer-director who has been helming for decades.  Two of his best works, "The Emigrants" (1971) and its sequel "The New Land" (1973) received wide distribution in the U.S., and put him on the inetrrnational map when the former was nominated for the Best Picture Oscar. 

"Everlasting Moments," which is Sweden's entry for the Foreign-Language Oscar, premiered at the 2008 Telluride Film Festival, where Troel got a well-deserved retrospective.  IFC will release the picture, which is now on a short list of 9 Foreign Oscar nominees, in February.  

Set at the beginning of the twentieth century, this period film, like Troell's previous work, is intense and grim, an intimately personal chronicle of one woman, inspired by the hard-scrabbled life of the grandmother of Troell's wife. Based on a story by Ulssater Troell, the scenario was co-penned by Niklas Radstrom, Jan Troell, and Agneta Ulfsater Troell. When the tale begins, around 1907, Maria Larsson (played by the great actress Maria Heiskanen), a Finnish-born femme, struggles to get by as the mother of (eventually) seven children and the wife of Sigfrid Larsson ((Mikael Persbrandt), a drunken and abusive bully who works as carousing laborer.

She ultimately finds emotional refuge and personal creativity in the form of a Contessa camera she had won years earlier in a lottery, but had never used.  In a key scene, Maria tries to pawn her camera to support her family, when her hubby and his co-workers go on strike. Instead, she gets unexpected encouragement from the sympathetic proprietor of the local photographic studio (Jesper Christensen), who tells her, "Not everyone is endowed with the gift of seeing."

 

When British scabs arrive to take over the jobs of the strikers, Sigfrid (nicknamed Sigge) is associated with the bombing of an English ship, which terminates his work. Despite his infidelities, Maria stands by him. Later on, when Sigge is drafted into military service in WWI, Maria begins taking photos of various events, including one of a summit meeting of the three Scandinavian kings.

The hand of fate or predestination of an ordinary woman to become an artist against all odds From that point on, the narrative concerns the multiple meanings of the act of seeing, for which film is the perfect medium to explore. Troell deliver an emotionally affecting film that manages to find glimmers of beauty in the encroaching bleakness.  Like Maria's illuminating photographs, the whole film transcends the conventionality of everyday life

By necessity, "Everlasting Moments," narrated by oldest daughter Maja (Callin Ohrvall), is fractured and episodic. Nonetheless, the film has cumulative power, due to its dramatic focus and meticulous attention to the historical and cultural events in which Maria lived and discovered her identity and calling.

Largely relying on natural lighting, the imagery of Mischa Gavrjusjov is old-fashioned in the classical sense of the term and is utterly congruent with the other properties of the film. I hesitate to use the term inspirational, but the aptly titled "Everlasting Moments" deserves that label, without setting out to be such a work.

Cast 

 

Sigfrid Larsson – Mikael Persbrandt

Maria Larsson – Maria Heiskanen

Sebastian Pedersen – Jesper Christensen

Maja Larsson – Callin Ohrvall

 

Credits

 

A Final Cut production, in association with Gotafilm, Motlys, Blind Spot Pictures, Schneider-Groos Film Produktion, Film 1 Skane, Filmpool Nord, Sveriges Television, Sandrew Metronome Intl.

Produced by Thomas Stenderup.

Co-producers, Tero Kaukomaa, Christer Nilson, Christof Groos, Ute Schneider. Directed by Jan Troell.

Screenplay, Niklas Radstrom, Troell, Agneta Ulfsater Troell, based on a story by Ulssater Troell.