Everlasting Moments – Eviga Ögonblick (2008) World Cinema Series – Sweden

At times bitter, at times beautiful, Everlasting Moments by Swedish filmmakerJan Troell is a movie like a painting. Filmed in sepia colored tones, it looks like one of those old photographs from the early 20th century. This is apt and artful at the same time as one of the major topics of the movie is photography. Photography as a means to capture moments, make them everlasting, but also photography as an art form and a source of hope in a bleak existence.

Based on a true story Everlasting Moments tells the story of Maria Larsson. She won a camera in a lottery, stored it somewhere in a cupboard and forgot all about it. Maria is a poor working woman, married to a brutal man, a drinker who hits her and their children. More than once she thinks of leaving him but after having asked the help of her father and been denied any, she slowly gives up. Her father tells her that in the eye of God it is a sin to leave your husband, no matter how he treats you.

Violence leads to her husband being arrested and when he is away, money gets scarce. She decides to sell the camera but Mr Pedersen, the owner of the camera shop, gives her some plates instead, and tells her to use it. What was it that made this gentle man realize that more than money, Maria needed something that would help her survive?

The only times in the movie in which Maria and her children lead a happy life is when the husband is in jail or enlists, when WWI breaks out. Unfortunately, every time, a few weeks after he has come back, she is pregnant again.

It is a slow movie, the shots are captivating, the music is in the background, quiet but underlines the pictures bu still it was hard to watch at times. The husband is so incredibly abusive and when Maria starts to make money with her shots, we do not understand why she stays with him. The same question is asked by her eldest daughter who narrates short parts.

I’m sure in an US movie, she would have left her husband and become a famous photographer. While stories like this do happen as well, the story of Maria Larsson, less grand, more quiet and hidden, is maybe more true to life.

Maria also finds solace in the friendship with Mr Pedersen. He sees the sadness in this woman, the potential and gives her the gift of an art form that will help her see beauty and make a little money. The actors, Maria Heiskanen as Maria, Mikael Persbrandt as her husband and Jesper Christensen as Mr Pedersen, are outstanding in their roles.

I read somewhere that Jan Troell was called a painterly director. This is an excellent expression but in this movie the shots often look like old photographs and are exquisite in all their details.

It was hard to watch how Maria’s man spoilt more than one moment but there was a lot of beauty in the movie. I found it particularly interesting to be reminded of how long it once took to take a picture. How careful you had to be, how complicated it was. Taking pictures was almost meditative, while now, it seems hundreds of images are taken in a very short time, and the process of really looking happens later, when they are sorted out.

Everlasting Moments is part of my World Cinema Series and a contribution to Richard’s Foreign Film Festival.