Everlasting Moments: A film in the service of the status quo
Rather than capturing the essence of the tumultuous times which it portrays, Everlasting Moments, a Swedish film directed by Jan Troell, is dull, dry and drawn out.
Based in early 20th century Sweden, the film follows the working class Larsson family through its ups and downs.
Maria Heiskanen plays Maria Larsson, a housekeeper and mother of seven broken down by her work, her abusive, lying, alcoholic husband Sigge (Mikael Persbrandt) and the banality of domestic servitude.
The Larsson family is plagued with contradiction. Sigge is a loving and carefree one minute and violent and demanding the next. He’s saddened immensely by his addiction to alcohol, but yet still unable to shake it. Religion and social pressures keep Maria trapped in this seemingly endless cycle, even when she wants to escape.
Impoverished and concerned with the well being of her family, Maria tries to sell a camera she won in a lottery to a Danish photographer (Jesper Christensen). But when the photographer sees the one picture Maria has taken, he urges Maria to keep the camera and shoot more, even giving her the materials she needs.
Maria has an on and off attraction with the camera and the photographer (although she never gives in to the temptation to act on it). At one point, she sets up a makeshift studio in her undersized apartment and becomes a popular photographer, drawing the contempt of Sigge, whose ego is bruised by her independence.
In some of the best scenes of the film, Maria uses her camera to help one mother accept the death of a daughter and another to see the beauty within her Down’s syndrome stricken child.
For his part, Sigge becomes swept up in the emerging labor movement. A hard working dockhand, he becomes convinced of the need for socialist revolution through a combination of life experiences and conversations with fellow workers. But it is not his only focus. When Sigge gets involved in a militant strike on the docks and is falsely accused of carrying out an explosive attack in support of it, he is forced to reveal that he was having sex with a barmaid to prove his innocence.
Not enough attention is given to the rising tide of working class militancy of the period. Such a long film could have easily spent more than the few moments it did on the suicide of Sigge’s best friend, an active anarchist who hung himself out of despair. And what’s worse, after that event we don’t hear any mention of the proletarian struggle at all.
Eventually, the Larssons move to an old house in the country and Sigge opens his own transportation business that quickly grows. Maria is shown taking the first and last picture of herself. She died soon after, we’re told, content of the life she’d lived.
Everlasting Moments does a good enough job of depicting the life of the Larsson family, and the acting is strong and believable. But in the end, the film serves the status quo with its moral that everything will eventually work out if you just hang in and bear whatever misery you are faced with.
Because of that, the film looses whatever worth it may have otherwise had. After all, the point is not simply to observe the world as it is, but to change it