Everlasting Moments (Blu-ray)
Directed by Jan Troell
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 131 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Swedish
MSRP: $ 39.95
Release Date: June 29, 2010
Review Date: June 20, 2010
A celebration of a slowly emancipated woman amid the changes and complexities of the early past of the last century gives Jan Troell’s Everlasting Moments real power. Based on the true story of his wife’s ancestors, Troell’s exquisite handling of another turn of the century story is full of good times and bad times, a true photograph of an era which must have vexed millions of men around the world as their women began exploring other options than simply staying home, cooking, cleaning, and sewing, and also giving birth to children and then raising them. And speaking of a photograph, the film’s secondary focus is in rejoicing over the invention of the camera, a marvel which can capture the essence of time and place and hold it there forever. The “everlasting moments” of the film’s title play a major role in the story being told in this movie.
Maria Larsson (Maria Heiskanen) has a typical working class mother’s life: hard work from sunrise to sunset with washing and ironing and cooking and tending to a large brood of children (with more constantly on the way). Her life isn’t made any easier by her very flawed husband Sigfrid (Mikael Persbrandt) who’s easily led astray by cronies, often drinks to excess and becomes a mean, abusive drunk in the process, and chases after just about anything attractive in a skirt. Maria wins a Contessa camera in a lottery, and she’s at first willing to sell it to get money for food and rent, but she’s convinced to learn to use it by the kindly photographer Sebastian Pedersen (Jesper Christensen) who shows her how to operate it and how to develop her own photographs. Before long, her photographer’s eye has made her the come-to person for the neighborhood when photographs are wanted, and despite her husband’s numerous peccadilloes and brushes with the law, her photography and her close friendship with Pedersen manage to sustain her.
The script by Niklas Radstrom, Jan Troell, and Agneta Ulfsater-Troell is based on a story by Ulssater Troell, and in telling the story of the Larsson family from 1907-1922, much care has been given not to make anyone ultimately all good or bad. Instead the characters are pictured in shades of gray (though Maria does take on quite a few facets of a saint for enduring the numerous challenges of marriage to the brutish Sigfrid). Troell uses his own painter’s eye to give the viewer a real feel for the particular time and place of the story, and the very look of the film seems of a bygone era. Nothing is artificially speeded up either; the pacing reflects a slower era when a sing along in the home where father plays the accordion or the mother and child read Uncle Tom’s Cabin together reflects a gentler, more measured way of living. With pictures and photography being major facets of the story, Troell takes many opportunities to show us the joy of the hobby, and when the more modern type of photography called movies enters the picture, he interjects a joyous sequence where the mother and children take in a Charlie Chaplin film and then return home and attempt to recreate the pleasure all over again, one of the most priceless sequences in recent cinema. There’s also a haunting image of a child walking into the dank mist across an ice pond, the swirls of clouds swallowing her up so that there’s no big shock when the next sequence finds Maria taking an exquisite picture of the child’s corpse in her coffin so the mother can always remember her child. There’s the loving stamp of familial devotion on every frame of Everlasting Moments. It’s Troell’s love letter to his wife’s gritty and determined ancestors, and it’s a film rich with character and life, a richness that expands with each revisit.
Maria Heiskanen gives a bravura performance as the long-suffering wife, a woman with an evolving backbone of steel who eventually stands up for herself and her children while staying true to her marriage vows and yet forging her own identity on her own terms. Mikael Persbrandt makes a most convincing scoundrel of a husband and yet he tempers it with an underlying notion that he really does love his family despite his own best efforts to squander something so precious. Jesper Christensen’s kindly photographer is such an interesting character that one wouldn’t have minded a second film about his own life and yearnings. Callin Ohrvall is a lovely Maja, the oldest daughter who narrates the story (though the narrative device opens and closes the film and isn’t used at all in the interim which seems an odd choice). As Sigfrid’s troubled best friend, Emil Jensen has a couple of scenes of distinction.
The film is framed at 1.78:1 and is presented in 1080p using the AVC codec. Filmed with natural light, the movie has colors that are very muted and never showy, the medium levels of grain, the desaturated hues, and a slight amber burnish to the image giving the movie’s look a definite feel of one hundred years ago. Sharpness is nicely delivered, but due to the style of filming, darkness often causes an increase in grain levels and a flattening of the image into something that looks somewhat digital and less pleasing to the eye. The white subtitles are easy to read. The film has been divided into 19 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack is subdued but beautifully light and airy. Matti Bye’s lilting music threads though the movie’s soundstage ever so gently with quiet precision, and while the rears aren’t used with wild abandon, there are occasional ambient sounds (such as seagulls and lapping water at the dock) that give the entire sound field something to do.
The film’s theatrical trailer is presented in 1080p and lasts for 2 ¼ minutes.
“Troell Behind the Camera” is a 2007 documentary which finds the director talking about his craft and members of the cast and crew discussing working with him on this movie. It runs for 28 minutes in 1080i.
“The True Story of Maria Larsson” tells the story of Maria Larsson from her own photographs taken over a spate of years with narration by director Jan Troell’s wife Agneta Ulfsater-Troell. Presented in 1080i, it runs for 9 ¼ minutes.
“Troell’s Magic Mirror” is the set’s most substantial feature, a 60 ¾-minute documentary on the life and career of its director with clips from his movies and interviews with him over a forty year period. Created in 2007, it is presented in 1080i.
The enclosed 18-page booklet contains cast and crew lists, some tinted stills from the movie, and film critic Armond White’s overview of the movie and Troell’s celebrated career.
The Criterion Blu-rays include a maneuvering tool called “Timeline” which can be pulled up from the menu or by pushing the red button on the remote. It shows you your progress on the disc and the title of the chapter you’re now in. Additionally, two other buttons on the remote can place or remove bookmarks if you decide to stop viewing before reaching the end of the film or want to mark specific places for later reference.
4/5 (not an average)
Exquisite in its depiction of turn of the century Sweden and telling an engrossing story of a woman finding her own artistic voice and personal independence after years of subjugation, Jan Troell’s Everlasting Moments is a lovely film and certainly ranks among his best-ever efforts. Recommended!