Everlasting Moments (IFC, NR)

film_everlasting_sm.jpgThe greatest gift of Everlasting Moments is that it returns the viewer to a time before reproduced images had saturated our culture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Earlier this year I thought it was a terrible injustice when Let the Right One In was not Sweden’s nomination for the Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award. Then I saw the film which was nominated, Everlasting Moments, and am left with the conclusion that the real injustice is that each country is limited to one nomination. I know that the Academy Awards began as a promotional event for the American film industry, or rather for certain segments of that industry; it’s just a shame that the Oscars are often taken as the ultimate statement on cinematic excellence rather than the outcome of a process which stacks the deck in favor of certain types of films and systematically overlooks others.

But you can be smarter than the Academy: there’s no reason to limit your personal viewing to one film per country per year. Keeping that in mind, I can heartily recommend Everlasting Moments as one of the best films of the year, and one which is quite different from most of the offerings at your local multiplex. Director Jan Troell has created a film which allows the viewer to enter a still space where the small moments of life can be experienced with the wonder they deserve, mirroring the talent of the film’s central character for seeing beauty in the most ordinary aspects of life. As such, it’s the opposite of most commercial films, which constantly push the viewer’s buttons and cue the expected emotional responses rather than allowing each person to have their own experience. Of course, some people may be confused or bored by a movie which expects them to do their own thinking and allows them to draw their own conclusions—but those in the market for car chases and emotions played broadly have plenty of other movies to choose from.

If you choose to enter the world of Everlasting Moments, you will be amply rewarded. The film is based on a novel which in turn is based on the true story of Maria Larsson (Maria Heiskanen), a working-class woman in turn-of-the century Sweden who discovers that she has an entirely unexpected talent for photography. It’s a small miracle that she was able to develop this talent, when most of her energy is required simply to keep together a household which includes seven children and a husband (Sigfrid, played by Mikael Persbrandt) given to drunkenness, philandering, and sometimes physical abuse, but she persists and, as she realizes her vocation, comes to see herself as more than a victim of circumstances.

Maria’s connection to photography starts through a series of almost accidental coincidences. She won a camera in a lottery, and when she tries to sell it (to support her family while her husband is out of work) instead the owner of a local photography shop, Sebastian Pederson (Jesper Christensen) encourages her to learn to use it. He gives her the necessary photographic materials on credit and her "gift for seeing," as Pederson puts, it soon become evident. He accepts a touching photograph of a drowned neighbor girl (taken at the request of the child’s mother) as payment. Even Sigfrid comes to recognize Maria’s talent when she shows him a photograph of their children, although he continues to be threatened by her growing independence.

The greatest gift of Everlasting Moments is that it returns the viewer to a time before reproduced images had saturated our culture, when a single photograph held the power to recall a loved one and a silent Charlie Chaplin film could seem the most wonderful of magic. Troell and Mischa Gavrjusjov, co-credited as directors of photography, worked in color but with a limited palette which recalls sepia-toned, black-and-white photographs. Music by Matti Bye (who has composed scores for many silent films) is always appropriate and helps create the film’s quiet, almost meditative tone. | Sarah Boslaugh

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