Everlasting Moments (Jan Troell, 2008): Denmark | Finland | Norway | Sweden | Germany

Reviewed by Alessa Valenzuela,  at the AFI film Festival in Los Angeles, California.

Everlasting Moments is a story for the age,s as it captures the human spirit through love, loyalties, passions, and family. As this was my first Swedish film, I was pleasantly whisked away by Jan Troell’s depiction of a family in the early 1920’s who is struggling to hold itself together in the face of great financial and personal hardships. As the film begins, images of film equipment fill the screen and are accompanied by beautiful string music and warm lacy images. The narration by a grown woman telling the story of a child and her family hooked me immediately.  The most captivating part of film for me is the story; a film without a quality story is often times difficult for me to connect to.

Matilda (Amanda Ooms) introduces us to her family of five run by a hard working and tight-lipped Maria Larsson (Maria Heiskanen) who must compensate for the drunkard her husband has become. In the first five minutes we see that the narrator’s teacher has come to visit their home because of her success in school. A mother’s proudest moment gets interrupted by two police men escorting a very drunk poet (Mikael Persbrandt) that the girl calls father, stumbling and sweaty, and the visit with the teacher is dismissed. Only later do we see the father (now sober) is charismatic and boisterous with his children and loving towards his wife.

The uncertainty of the marriage is a burden on the Maria’s shoulders, and she tries desperately to live virtuously loyal to her Sigfrid despite his philandering and abusive nature when he drinks. The most heart-wrenching part comes when she makes the decision to leave her husband for the safety of her children.  The woman and the three children take to the snow-covered streets, silhouetted by the bright light of an approaching train. Her strength in leaving is abruptly abandoned when her ailing father refuses her approval. It is at that moment when we see the true selflessness of motherhood. Her decision to stay with her husband is the ultimate sacrifice for her family.

While Maria fights to keep her family together and protect her children, Matilda continues to excel with the support of her mother, and with the addition of more siblings the rollercoaster continues. Soon after the newest addition to the family, Maria discovers the camera, apprehensively inquiring about it at a local shop. The camera becomes her escape from her life and she is able to capture beauty even in desperate things. The camera chronicles the growth of one woman in her journey of self-discovery.

The most troubling thing about this film is that even thought the father is downright awful to his family at times, it is so very clear that he is really more a victim of the times and a disease. For nearly every outburst of violence or drunkenness, there is also a moment of tenderness with his children or a caring dance with his wife. There is such a love in the marriage in the beginning that it is hard to imagine that this man would be so callous in contemporary society.

Beautifully shot soft images tell the story of Maria and her family whose passions encourage and challenge the world she lives in. While learning just how the camera really works, a lovely motif of a butterfly reflected onto her had through a lens represents the metamorphosis she is about to embark upon. Towards the end of the film, the image of a butterfly is reintroduced when it is caught in her studio years later; she smiles thoughtfully to the woman she was and opens the window to free the creature.

As corny as this all may sound the beauty in the cinematography is systematically pair with very dark and sinister events that give the film a much more gritty and real serious tone. Adultery, suicide, abuse, and death provide a very sobering effect that makes the film feel very real. It is commonly known that we can’t truly know happiness without knowing sadness; Everlasting Moments is clearly a representation of this idea. If you are interested in a film that will make you laugh, cry, and captivate you than make sure to check out this film.

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