A camera brought them together; a camera tore them apart. From the surprisingly true story of a poor Swedish woman named Maria Larsson, comes Jan Troell's masterful film about braving abuse, poverty, and sadness in order to follow one's dreams.
'Everlasting Moments' is a deeply thoughtful film set in Sweden around the turn of the century (1911). The Larsson family is poor, and the father, Sigfrid Larsson, performs back-breaking labor at the docks everyday so his family can have a roof over their heads and food in their bellies. The Larssons start out with five children, but over the course of the film their family grows steadily. Just more mouths to feed according to Sigfrid. When Sigfrid is sober, he's a nice gentle man who loves his kids and dances with his wife. When he's drunk he's abusive and adulterous. Truly a man of two faces.
A narrator at the beginning informs us that Maria and Sigfrid won a camera in a lottery. Jokingly they both discuss marriage as the only way that they could both use the camera, so they get married. Maria's love for Sigfrid is tested as Sigfrid constantly beats her and the children whenever he becomes intoxicated. Her father tells her that because of the oath she made she can never leave Sigfrid, so she stays true to her word.
In order to find an outlet from the abuse and negativity spreading throughout her life, Maria digs out the old camera. At first she contemplates selling it to bring in a little more money for the family. She meets a kind camera store owner, Sebastian Pedersen, who generously gives her free supplies in order to use the camera.
Maria discovers a love of photography. The cinematography by Troell and Mischa Gavrjusjov gives the movie a deep sepia tone which makes it look like an old photograph. The images captured by Maria are ones of contemplation. A woman so steeped in guilt and sadness is able to find joy all around her in scenery, people, and animals. The film is beautifully shot with each scene looking almost as if it is a still photograph framed with care and purpose. One amazing scene involves Maria trying to get a picture of a few people as a large zeppelin passes overhead. The shadow engulfs the people, sliding across the ground and up a brick wall. The camera pans back so we are able to get a full view of what is happening. The imagery is astounding.
Troell knows how to construct a film that makes us feel sympathetic and angry at the same time. We feel sympathy for Maria, but we're angry she stays with Sigfrid. We feel sympathetic for Sigfrid because of his alcoholism, and we're furious as he breaks his promises over and over. There isn't a definite right and wrong here. It's just people struggling for their lives in a time where the poverty was commonplace. Maria is a strong woman, the camera is her weapon, and she wields it with power. That camera not only changes her life, but her whole family, and now it has gone on as a true story to be recounted to the world.
Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
This Criterion release comes on a 50GB Dual-Layered Blu-ray disc, housed in the patented clear, slightly-oversized case. A booklet is included with the set. At the beginning the booklet lays out the chapters of the film. "Ways of Seeing," by film critic Armond White is the featured essay. The booklet also features some stunning photographic stills taken from the film like the zeppelin scene I mentioned. Finally the details about the transfer are explained. It's presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1.
When restarting the Blu-ray you are given a nice little box that asks you whether you would like to continue where you left off or not, instead of just starting back up or going straight back to the menu. It's a simple feature, but nice to have.
Criterion's high-def transfer for 'Everlasting Moments,' looks phenomenal.
Transferred from the original 16mm negative to 1080p, 'Everlasting Moments' sports a heavy amount of cinematic grain, but comes out looking more detailed and precise than anyone could ever have expected. Colors, especially the sepia tones, are deep and richly defined. The grain does hamper a few fine details, and there are a couple shots that look completely out of place, as though they were shot with a different camera (there's a particularly murky shot at the 34:46 time mark, which looks very out of place compared to the rest of the film). Heavy grain takes a toll on darker scenes as well. The entire "Explosion at the Docks" chapter is mired in a thick barrage of detail sapping grain. Don't get me wrong I'm not anti-grain at all, it's to be expected, especially after being transferred from 16mm film. Considering the source, overall this transfer is just short of perfection. It's gorgeous to watch. It accurately portrays Troell's vision of a film with a photographic look.
Presented in Swedish the DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio accompanying this release isn't as astonishing as the video transfer, but that's only because it doesn't have as much to work with.
Still the audio presentation produced here is a perfect complement to the film. Dialogue is always clear. Atmospheric ambient sound from the busy docks is engulfing with men scurrying around and ship horns blowing in the distance. Matti Bye's original score is presented thoughtfully through the front channels. 'Everlasting Moments' soundtrack is subtle and nuanced, but nonetheless, this audio presentation gives it a stage in which to shine.
The more I think about 'Everlasting Moments,' the more I appreciate every minute of it. It's tells the inspiring story of a poor Swedish woman who emancipates herself through photography. In a sense, it saves her life. Beautifully shot, Troell's masterpiece looks like a collection of delicate old photographs. The video is near perfect and the audio is right there with it. Chalk up yet another great all around Blu-ray release from Criterion. Highly recommended.