I saw the movie “Everlasting Moments” (“Maria Larssons eviga ögonblicklast”in Swedish) last night, and I’m glad I did. It is nice to be reminded now and then what “beautiful movie” means. Jan Troell’s 2008 movie is about Maria Larsson, an early 1900’s Finish woman, who lives in Sweden with her husband and seven children. She is a hard working woman, her husband is a drunkard and abusive man. Maria comes across a Contessa camera she had won in a lottery but never used before, and starts taking photographs. With the help of a photo studio owner (Mr. Pedersen, who becomes her mentor), it turns out she has “the gift of seeing”; her photographs are moving and beautiful.
The movie looks like a postcard from that era; there is this low Nordic light, the colors brown, black, grey. The costumes looked convincingly worn. Maria’s life is tough; there are money problems, she’s the housewife and at the same time works as a cleaner and a seamstress. Her sometimes charming, strong and handsome husband Sigge tends to drink and become abusive, and when he works at the docks is introduced to socialism and participates in the strike which is broken by the import of British dock workers. He’s also a womanizer, having a long-running affair with a barmaid, and is ready to seduce every pretty girl available. The way he does it, with this ultimate shamelessness, is tough. It’s like Maria is invisible and irrelevant for him.
Of course when Maria takes up photography, which makes her happy and has some success in it, he becomes sort of jealous, and his behaviour worsens. Maria takes photographs of her neighbors, of her children, even of the three kings, which gets published in the paper. Sigge cannot be happy. Maria cannot leave him, although she does protest against his violence. And of course she never lets him sell the Contessa; the camera and her children are the oases of her life. Maria Heiskanen plays Maria brilliantly; we can see her toughness and hurt is every little twitch of her face. The emotions are there, subtle and conveyed.
The movie made me think about talent. Maria is lucky in the sense that she obviously has a talent in photography and was lucky enough to happen upon a camera, use it and discover that she likes doing it and she’s good at it. Lots of people never have the chance to discover their talents. How’s one supposed to know what they are talented at, if they don’t ever get the chance to try something out? It reminded me of my grandmother, an uneducated woman, who looks like she has a talent for foreign languages and drawing. It’s amazing how easily she picks up words and the right accent, even now that she’s in her late 70s. But throughout her life she was never able to pursue any of these areas, because she was from a poor family, she had to work hard since she was very young, she married young and then had a family to take care of. She never had the opportunity to be educated. But she did manage to be a very good seamstress. And she has a very good sense of humour; actually she’s a riot!
I don’t know if I am talented in anything. I enjoy doing different things, but I have trouble concentrating in one. Where’s my passion? I may never know… One thing that I found unsettling about the movie, was the fact that while Maria is a hard working, competent and decent woman, her man Sigge is an unreliable husband: abusive, often in trouble, and easy to get in affairs with other women. He does this with a cruel disregard for Maria right in front of her eyes, as if she’s invisible and insensitive. Maria silently suffers her pain, again and again and again… I hate this feeling when you think you might mean something to someone, and what you get in return is disregard. Anyway.
The movie is beautifully shot, with honest realism. It feels real, it feels genuine. Some scenes are tough. But it is a moving film, the kind that you lose yourself in, and feel like that you actually experienced something.