Maria Larsson (Maria Heiskanen) is the mother of seven and wife of an abusive drunk, Sigge (Mikael Persbrandt). He beats her and their children whenever he’s had a drink too many, which is quite often.
Maria makes a living mending gentry folk’s clothes and washing their floors. Sigge takes on work wherever he can find it. It’s at the beginning of the 20th century and life in the Larsson family’s tiny apartment in Malmöaut;, Sweden, is hard and bleak, something even the brownish-sepia coloured shots of Everlasting Moments capture spot on.
A Contessa camera, which Maria won in a lottery, provides her momentary escape out of the humdrum as she starts photographing the everyday – the house cat, her children, a butterfly on the windowpane. It makes her a bit of a local celebrity when neighbours want their portraits taken and, most importantly, fills Maria with courage. Sigge feels threatened by his wife’s newfound freedom and attention and tries to get rid of the camera. But Maria stands her ground, saying, “You can hit me but you will not take the camera.”
Everlasting Moments portrays a personalised story of a world in upheaval. Socialist ideas seep in from the east, shown through Sigge’s struggle as a dock worker on strike, the First World War (Sigge is enlisted) and hunger (the Larssons only have swedes to eat for months on end). It is a very personal upheaval too – we are shown Maria’s fear as Sigge threatens to kill her and her emotional determination to go on living, take care of her kids and pursue her hobby as an amateur photographer. She even falls in love with the camera shop owner who encourages her to take more pictures.
Directed by Swedish filmmaker Jan Troell (Hamsun and Utvandrarna), Everlasting Moments is based on the real life story of Troell’s wife’s grandmother who found respite from everyday hardship by taking photos.
Although every shot is framed like a painting, with characters, costumes and scenes blending together in a perfect palette of shades, Troell conveys the period with masterful realism, with the working class fighting for a better place in the world. Antagonism between workers and bosses is particularly poignant in the scene where a deadly fight between British strike breakers brought to the docks and the Swedish dockworkers, including Sigge, ensues despite a banner stating “don’t take our bread brothers” being held high.
Everlasting Moments is a slice of life from a distant era. But, as the feature’s title suggests, the storyline is an everlasting moment; whether it’s 1909 or 2009, the class struggle goes on.
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