In Everlasting Moments director Jan Troell views Swedish history through a struggling mother whose life is changed by the introduction of a camera. Troell’s most celebrated film was 1972’s The Emigrants. About Swedes leaving for America, Emigrants received Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Direction, Screenplay and Liv Ullmann's performance. Like his previous works, Troell’s latest is rich in both compelling personal experiences and historical detail. Moments was well received at the Telluride Film Festival, indicating that, given time to build, word of mouth could attract good audiences of artfilm aficionados.
Moments is based on a book by Troell’s wife, Agneta Ulfsäter-Troell, inspired by the life of her father’s aunt. Troell said the description of the importance of photography gripped him as he has been a devotee of still photography since 14. He and his wife co-wrote the screenplay.
In 1907, Maria Larson (Maria Heiskanen) wins a camera in a lottery. Her husband Sigfrid (Mikael Persbrandt) works on the docks. He’s a heavy drinker who regularly breaks his temperance society pledge. Their daughter’s pride in a visit from her teacher is shattered by Sigfrid’s drunken behavior. He is also unfaithful. When life with her husband becomes increasingly painful, Maria contemplates leaving Sigfrid. Her father convinces her that it is her duty to stay with her husband, no matter how abusive his behavior.
Through her new camera Maria meets local photographer, Sebastian Pederson (Jesper Christensen), who introduces her to photography. In a superb performance, Heiskanen shows how Maria changes after she starts photographing her children and the daily life around her, creating permanent remembrances. She starts to see life anew. Heiskanen’s face shines with excitement and wonderment, conveying Maria’s belief that using the camera “turns me into another person.” Neighbors ask her to photograph their families. Her proficiency with the camera gives Maria a new confidence and sustains her during hard times. Her life is full of sadness and the economic strain of providing rent and food for her growing family. She eventually has seven children. The dockworkers endure a punishing strike. Shadows of a dirigible indicate the World War. Maria documents everything over the years.
Troell continues to immerse viewers in the daily lives of his characters by filling his films with vibrant reconstructions of the changing times. Troell also performs as the cinematographer for his films, a job choice that’s caused union problems when he’s worked in the United States.
Maria’s story becomes extremely poignant as tensions erupt between her and Sigfrid. He becomes jealous of Maria’s attention toward her photography, time not spent directed toward him. Heiskanen is backed by an impressive ensemble. Persbrandt effectively shows Sigfrid’s angry frustration. In quieter moments, Heiskanen and Persbrandt have a good screen chemistry that makes evident an emotional bond that keeps Maria with Sigfrid, even after her new independence. Troell has made an engrossing exploration of what he describes as creativity in service of survival.
Cast: Maria Heiskanen, Mikael Persbrandt, Jesper Christensen, Callin Öhrvall and Ghita Nørby
Director: Jan Troell
Screenwriter: Niklas Rådström and Jan Troell, based on a novel by Agneta Ulfsäter Troell
Producer: Thomas Stenderup, Christer Nilson and Tero Kaukomaa
Genre: Drama, Swedish-language; subtitled
Running Time: 128 min.
Release Date: March 6 LA