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"Everlasting Moments" Are Saved In Photos
Jan Troell's 2008 film follows a woman who can "see"
Howard Schumann (howard16)     Print Article 
Published 2010-01-24 02:36 (KST)   
Howard Schumann rates "Everlasting Moments" an A-.  <Editor's Note>
The debate over whether photography can be considered an art form has been going on since the early 19th century, yet one thing is certain - to be successful, a photograph must combine both technical excellence and inspiration.

Like most artistic endeavors, taking quality pictures can be a transforming experience. As photographer Jan Phillips stated, "There is something about this work, something healing about this search for the light."

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This was definitely the case for Maria (Maria Heiskanen), a beleaguered housewife in Jan Troell's lovely Everlasting Moments, who uses her camera as a means of saving her soul and probably her sanity.

The film, Sweden's submission for an Oscar in 2008 for Best Foreign Film, was adapted by Troell from a novel written by his wife Agneta that was based on the life of a member of her family, Maria Larsson. Set in Sweden in the early 1900s, the real Maria's life story and photographs are shown in the film which is brimming with period detail and strong characterizations.

Maria must scrape out a living sewing and cleaning to support a family of seven children while putting up with philandering and abusive husband Sigfrid (Mikael Persbrandt), who works sporadically as a laborer when he is sober. Though he joins the local Temperance Society, his will is not very strong and he repeatedly falls off the wagon.

Up against repeated financial problems, Maria offers to sell the camera that she won in a lottery but is persuaded by the camera shop owner Sebastian Pedersen (Jesper Christensen) to first try and use it herself, though he agrees to purchase it in the future. Buoyed by Sebastian telling her that, "not everyone is endowed with the gift of seeing," Maria begins to take photos under Sebastian's guidance and is astonished at the wonders it performs. She begins to capture some of the everlasting moments of the film's title, using her gift of "seeing" to supplement the family income. Slowly she develops her art while having to constantly fend off Sigge's jealous tantrums.

Maria takes portraits of her neighbors at Christmas, a stunning image of a recently deceased young girl lying on a table, a parade of Socialists seen from her window, a street puppeteer, and an image of the shadow of a zeppelin flying overhead. Sebastian encourages Maria to develop her skills and is ecstatic when one of her photographs is used by the local newspaper. He offers her a job in the studio but she turns it down because of her family obligations. Troell even implies that the photographer has fallen in love with her but conventions at the time do not permit its expression.

The drama depicts Maria's courageous struggle to stay afloat financially when her husband is either not working or is sent to prison for drunkenness or threatening behavior towards his family. Daughter Maja (Callin Ohrvall), the film's narrator, helps the family considerably by taking care of her younger siblings and by working as a maid for a wealthy family until she is assaulted by the woman's brother. In spite of all logic and seeming common sense, she stays with Siegfried, influenced by her father's reminder of her sacred oath made during the wedding ceremony to stay together, "till death do us part."

"Everlasting Moments" is rich in the quality of the performances, especially that of Maria Heiskanen as the courageous woman who breaks through her limitations of gender and class to experience life in a new way. Jesper Christiansen is equally strong as the devoted friend who encourages her to keep going when she wants to quit. Though Maria does not become famous or wealthy from taking pictures, her art allows her to keep up her spirits during her most difficult periods. Kudos are due to the immense talent of 78 year-old director Jan Troell, noted for "The New Land" and "Hamsun", who, in "Everlasting Moments", infuses the dark shadows of a troubled life with ineffable beauty.
This article has not appeared in any other news medium but has been submitted to Cinescene (www.cinescene.com)
©2010 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Howard Schumann

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