Everlasting Moments (15)

Dec 04, 2019
Anson Paul

This exquisite drama is the true story of Maria Larsson, a working class woman, who wins a camera in a lottery and goes on to become a photographer. Set in the early twentieth century, when Sweden was undergoing social change and unrest it evokes tenderness and hope.



Everlasting Moments 2008

Jan Troell’s “Everlasting Moments” is his fourteenth film to date; a grand old man of the Swedish cinema he is regarded as one of that country’s Masters along with Ingmar Bergmann and Bo Wilderberg whom he worked for as a cameraman yet I would be surprised if anybody reading this has ever heard of him.

Whilst Troell’s  directorial style is anchored in the Cinema Verite documentary genre of the 1960’s his stories tend towards a detached yet lyrical observation of a recreated past, “Emigrants” (peasants emigrating to America in the early 20th century) being a typical example.

Troell’s cinematographic signature is highly naturalistic camerawork in which the mundane and the ordinary appear almost mystically significant. In “Everlasting Moments” he shot on 16 mm film, which was then transposed to 35 mm in order to create a grainy, sepia muted colour redolent of the early 20th century. This together with his skilful use of available natural light gives the film an astonishing authenticity.

“Everlasting Moments” is the true story of Maria Larsson and her family’s struggles with poverty and the vicissitudes of the 20th century. On the surface it is the tale of a strong female pioneer of photography achieving spiritual and economic emancipation through kindness and hard work but on another level it is the story of the awakening of 20th century mankind’s sense of identity through the camera.

The Larsson family is typical working class poor, Maria’s husband Sigge is a stevedore working in Malmo docks, brutally masculine yet charming, a bluff father and partner his character blighted by the oppression of manual labour and alcoholism. By contrast Maria is a sensitive, dutiful housewife surrounded by ignorance and fiercely protective of her children.

The narrative drive of the film concerns Maria’s winning a Contessa camera in a lottery, which she later takes tries to sell to a sympathetic gentleman photographer Mr. Pedersen. However, instead of buying the camera outright, Pedersen becomes her mentor and teaches her to see and use the instrument.

From here on we watch Maria and her magic box as they create a kinetic family album exploring, amongst other things, ways and means of using this “magic” for her family’s spiritual and economic improvement, taking portraits of the neighbours, selling pictures to newspapers.

Troell sets these protagonists against the developing 20th century as they face socialism, the Great War, electricity and the cinema. The drama is at its most intense when it pits the old rules of marriage against the new complicated order of greater equality. The masculine role of marriage is literally put to the test and collapses. Maria, the liberated woman emerges from the conflict as if from a chrysalis.

Through all this Troell sustains our interest with images of transient everyday beauty, whether it is hanging out the washing, the company picnic or the hauntingly beautiful shot of a tram’s headlight in the isolating darkness.

This is not just a film about the liberation of a woman through art but an acute observation on how the camera has changed the very essence of the human psyche for the better.


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