The screening of Jan Troell's Everlasting Moments brought a packed house this past Friday at the Pacific Film Archive. Jan Troell uses his own creative cinematography in order to achieve the setting of the simplicity of Sweden in 1907. With the use of normal sunlight, grainy film, and beautiful nature shots, rural life—though difficult—encompasses the simple things in life: family, love, and creativity. The film is an engaging portal into the life of the main character, Maria, who fights to keep her family together despite an abusive and unfaithful husband and finds relief in the magic of photography.
Set in Sweden in 1907, Jan Troell exposes the brutal realities of the time period through his characters in Everlasting Moments. The film is centered around Maria, the mother of seven children and the wife of an incessantly drunk husband, Sigge, who refuses to end his abusive and disheartening habits. Through the daily work of attempting to keep the children fed with the little money Sigge makes working in a coal laboring company, Maria ties her family together even while being beaten by her husband. Because of Sigge's drunken habits, the family is ridiculed by the town and looked down upon by everyone, even children. When Maria is beaten tortuously, she turns to her dying father who advises her to stay since the union of marriage remains intact until the day of death. Because of this she endures being beaten almost to death, raped by her own husband, and cheated on continuously.
Amidst the daily struggles Maria endures, she finds relief in taking photography with a camera she won in the lottery but never used. She attempts to sell it at the local camera shop, but the owner, Mr. Peterson urges her to keep her camera and has a moment of romantic connection in admiring a butterfly in the window. At that point on, Maria is consumed with taking photographs of people in her town, from taking pictures for Christmas, to taking a picture of a little girl on her death bed, to taking pictures of her family. She repeatedly returns to Mr. Peterson's shop and shares innocent moments of love and admiration, exposing the true nature of what love can be, without engaging in adultery herself. In the end, Mr. Peterson moves away in a tear-jerking moment as they say their final goodbyes. Sigge and Maria stay together despite their conflicts and abuse in order to keep their family together and be true to the promise of marriage. As her daughter says in the last line of the film, “Perhaps it was love.” I suppose you’ll have to see the movie in order to find out what Jan Troell really believes is love.