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Criterion Collection: Everlasting Moments [Blu-ray] [Import]

Maria Heiskanen , Mikael Persbrandt , Jan Troell    Unrated   Blu-ray
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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3.0 out of 5 stars HEARTBREAKING Aug. 22 2013
By little lady blue TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:DVD
A camera takes on a persona of its own in this heartbreaking story. The violence of husband towards wife & children is raw & hard to watch, but there is such beauty in this woman - her suffering & her struggle & her one joy in life apart from her children - taking pictures & the man that shows her how.
Maria Heiskanen as the wife is outstanding.
A beautifully filmed movie about ugly violence.
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5.0 out of 5 stars I appreciated it even more on the second viewing Aug. 29 2012
By Steven Aldersley TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Blu-ray
I'm losing count of the number of foreign films I've discovered that I would like to show to friends. Unfortunately, the vast majority would not subject themselves to a subtitled film, so this review will have to be my outlet. Maybe it will persuade one person, somewhere, to watch this wonderful film?

I first saw Everlasting Moments on cable about two years ago. Although I admired it, I felt that it dragged a little at times and I awarded it 3.5/5. I don't know whether my tastes have matured significantly since that time, but I was captivated by last night's viewing on Criterion Blu-ray.

The story tells the true story of Maria Larsson (Heiskanen), who is distantly related to members of director Jan Troell's family. It opens in the first decade of the 1900s and ends in the early 1920s. The story is narrated by Maria's daughter, Maja, and the story is based on her real memoirs.

What can you expect from Everlasting Moments?

The story shows life in Sweden approximately 100 years ago. It's a brutally honest portrayal of poverty and hardship, and how Maria found an escape from that gritty existence through her photography. We are told at the outset that Maria won a camera in a lottery. The ticket was purchased by Sigfrid Larsson (Persbrandt), and he thought the camera should be his because he bought Maria the ticket. She told him that he would have to marry her if he wanted to share it, so he did.

Sigfrid is a complicated character. We discover that he is an alcoholic, and that he also has a weakness when it comes to other women. He appears to love Maria, but he's a violent man when under the influence of drink, causing all manner of problems for Maria and their children.
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Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  164 reviews
42 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Gentle Miracle of a Film Sept. 9 2009
By Grady Harp - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
EVERLASTING MOMENTS ('Maria Larssons eviga ögonblick') is a quiet, gentle masterpiece of filmmaking. The screenplay by Niklas Rådström, based on a story by Agneta Ulfsäter-Troell and director Jan Troell, is so free of the expected extended dialogues that accompany films of this nature that it allows the magic of the period piece set in early 20th century Sweden to rely on the beauty of the cinematography by Mischa Gavrjusjov and Jan Troell and the subtle and simple film score by Matti Bye (with a little help from Massenet!). Filmed in the color scheme suggestive of the distinguished Danish painter Vilhelm Hammershøi, never straying far from sepia tones that ignite the solitude and light of the Nordic countries, this film could probably be successful as a silent movie - that is how powerful the production is.

We are told in the voice over introduction that Maria Larsson (the exceptional Finnish actress Maria Heiskanen) won a camera in a lottery and the only way she would share the strange prize would be if her boyfriend Sigfrid (Mikael Persbrandt) would marry her. The couple marries and begins a large family: Maria takes in sewing and Sigfrid works at the docks - and drinks to excess. Maria's world becomes progressively unhappy and though she continues to have children she longs for a life free of the influence of Sigfrid's alcoholism and womanizing. She finds her hidden camera and thinking to pawn it for money to support her children she seeks the advice of an older photographer Sebastian Pedersen (Jesper Christensen) who convinces her to discover the magic of photography as a means of expression and makes it possible for Maria to keep her camera and learn the art of photography. In Maria's oppressive life there is now a light as seen through the lens of her camera that allows her to sustain herself through times of social change, war (WW I), Sigfrid's imprisonment, and a clandestine love affair with the kind and caring Sebastian. The story moves slowly, like a stroll in the wintry woods, and introduces many characters whose significance grow through the film. The ending of the story is as gentle as a dream, or as an everlasting moment. It is sheer magic. For this viewer this is one of the finest films to come along in years. In Swedish and Finnish with subtitles. Highly recommended. Grady Harp, September 09
37 of 42 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Moving, wistful celebration of the struggles of our grandparents' generation March 25 2009
By Turfseer - Published on Amazon.com
***This review contains spoilers***

I have an old photograph of my mother when she was five years old walking down the Boardwalk in Atlantic City in 1930 with my grandparents and I often wonder what their lives were like at that moment in time. Jan Troell's "Everlasting Moments" attempts to do just that as he brings old family photographs to life in his sweeping family saga set in Sweden at the turn of the century.

Everlasting Moments begins in the Swedish port city of Malmo in 1907. It's a true story based on the reminiscences of Maja Larrson who is the film's narrator. She takes us back to when she was a child and we're introduced to her parents Maria and Sigfrid (Siggie) Larrson. Siggie is a dock worker who also happens to be an alcoholic. Maria (wonderfully played by Maria Heiskanen) is his long-suffering wife. Although Siggie belongs to the Temperance Society he is continually relapsing and most of the tension in the film's first half revolves around the harrowing scenes of domestic violence in which Siggie uses his wife as a veritable punching bag.

Maria is under tremendous pressure, not only from the heartache of having to deal with her often drunk and philandering husband but also raising a brood of precocious children. One day Maria rediscovers an expensive camera that she and her husband had won in a lottery at the time they got married. She decides to take a picture of her children without her husband knowing about it and brings it to a local photography shop and meets the kindly shop owner, Sebastian Pedersen. Pederson is a bit older than Maria but they soon form a lasting friendship. Pedersen eventually shows Maria how to use the camera and develop pictures.

Meanwhile, we get a real feel for the history of the times as we see what happens to Siggie as he becomes involved with Socialist and Communist agitators who seek to unionize dockworkers in their fight against the shipowners. At one point British scabs are brought in and one of the strike breakers is murdered. Siggie is a suspect for a short while but is cleared after a local floozy who he's been having an affair with provides an alibi.

To Siggie's chagrin, Maria presses forward with her fascination with photography. Eventually she starts earning extra money taking photos of people in the community. In one sad and sensitive scene, Maria declines to charge a woman who asks her if she could take a picture of her daughter who has just died after falling through the ice wandering too far out on to a not so frozen pond. The image of the deceased girl is one of the many striking images of still photography seen in this film.

Things come to a head when Siggie suspects that Maria has been having an affair with Pedersen and brutally rapes her. As a result, Marie is pregnant with another child who ends up with polio. Finally, Siggie takes things too far and drags Maria outside and almost slits her throat with a knife. As a result, he's arrested and thrown in jail (presumably there were neighbors who were witnesses to this horrible act but we never see them nor are there any scenes of Siggie being arrested and brought before a magistrate).

While I expected Maria to leave her husband and go off on her own running her own photography business, that's not what happens in the film's denouement. Instead, Maria stops taking photos for quite awhile and loses contact with Pedersen after the family moves to a different part of town. After Siggie gets out of jail, Maria decides to stick it out with him. Some say it was Maria's memories of her father exhorting her never to leave her husband since it was "God's will" or perhaps it was simply Maria's conservative nature. More likely it was Siggie eventually becoming more mature. He gives up the bottle, starts running a successful moving company and becomes a decent family man. It should be pointed out that Siggie is only a monster when he's drunk. Other times he's shown to be a sensitive man (in one scene, he prevents a man from abusing a horse in the street).

Maria's farewell to Pedersen is a poignant and bittersweet moment in the film. The two part knowing that their relationship was never meant to go further than it did. Pederson's shop is like an oasis for Maria while she's trying to cope with her husband in the early years. Although Pedersen is not a very 'exciting' character, and there's little conflict between the two, he's a soothing and supporting presence, contrasting nicely with the brutal and oppressive Siggie.

Some of the other characters in the film are not sufficiently developed. Siggie's 'anarchist' buddy who commits suicide due to an fulfilled life is one such character. Maja, the film's narrator, has a brief scene where she's almost molested by an employer while working as a housekeeper and then there's the youngest son who's briefly seen trying to cope with the ravages of polio--these characters and scenes seem almost like afterthoughts.

Nonetheless, 'Everlasting Moments' is still filled with indelible, everlasting moments and images (especially check out the effect that Charlie Chaplin had on the Larrson family--that's a scene you won't forget!). Jan Troell's look into the past is not sentimental but more wistful. And even more important, he teaches us about the trials, tribulations and the sacrifices made by the older generation as they stumbled into a firm and rewarding maturity.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I appreciated it even more on the second viewing Aug. 29 2012
By Steven Aldersley - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Blu-ray
I'm losing count of the number of foreign films I've discovered that I would like to show to friends. Unfortunately, the vast majority would not subject themselves to a subtitled film, so this review will have to be my outlet. Maybe it will persuade one person, somewhere, to watch this wonderful film?

I first saw Everlasting Moments on cable about two years ago. Although I admired it, I felt that it dragged a little at times and I awarded it 3.5/5. I don't know whether my tastes have matured significantly since that time, but I was captivated by last night's viewing on Criterion Blu-ray.

The story tells the true story of Maria Larsson (Heiskanen), who is distantly related to members of director Jan Troell's family. It opens in the first decade of the 1900s and ends in the early 1920s. The story is narrated by Maria's daughter, Maja, and the story is based on her real memoirs.

What can you expect from Everlasting Moments?

The story shows life in Sweden approximately 100 years ago. It's a brutally honest portrayal of poverty and hardship, and how Maria found an escape from that gritty existence through her photography. We are told at the outset that Maria won a camera in a lottery. The ticket was purchased by Sigfrid Larsson (Persbrandt), and he thought the camera should be his because he bought Maria the ticket. She told him that he would have to marry her if he wanted to share it, so he did.

Sigfrid is a complicated character. We discover that he is an alcoholic, and that he also has a weakness when it comes to other women. He appears to love Maria, but he's a violent man when under the influence of drink, causing all manner of problems for Maria and their children.

Maria's life changes when she discovers the camera in a closet one day and decides to pawn it for food. She takes it to a local photography store and encounters the owner, Sebastian Pedersen (Christensen). Maria has no idea of the camera's value, but Pedersen tells her that it is a good one. In fact, he's not completely sure of its value either. He tells her that he will buy it, but that she should keep it and use it until he establishes its value. The cost of the chemicals and photographic plates will be deducted from the price when he eventually buys it. Maria begins to use the camera and discovers that she likes it. Pederson admires her work and thinks she has real skill.

Have you ever uncovered a talent of your own that you never knew you had? That is part of the magic of Everlasting Moments. We live in a world where people are very guarded and often reluctant to show anyone a glimpse of their true feelings. Most reactions we see in others in a social setting are fake to some degree. They feign interest in what you are saying and force themselves to laugh or smile. It's rare to see genuine delight, and when I see it, I remember it. It's more common to see honest reactions from children because they don't care so much about how others perceive them.

I mention all this to illustrate the power of Maria's reaction when she realizes that she has a talent for photography. It is pure magic to her and Maria Heiskanen captures that feeling and depicts it perfectly. It's so effective that I felt everything that Maria might feel and I began to connect deeply with her character and her situation.

Although Maria doesn't boast about her talent or think that it's special, she begins to draw the attention of her friends and acquaintances. Photography was not common 100 years ago, so Maria finds that some people are willing to pay for her work and commission her to do more.

Like all of my favorite dramas, Everlasting Moments takes the time to establish its characters. Maria ultimately has seven children and we learn about what is important to the older ones. Sigfrid does his best to be a good father and husband, but it's not really enough for Maria. However, she takes marriage seriously and we see that she isn't the kind of woman to cheat, even when she observes Sigfrid openly flirting with other women.

Maria develops a deep friendship with Sebastian, which develops as she visits his store more regularly. This relationship is arguably the very heart of the film. Will Maria be tempted to abandon her husband or break her marriage vows?

It's also interesting that Sigfrid is jealous of Maria's relationship with Sebastian, even though he only ever suspects that something might be going on. He conveniently overlooks the fact that he is involved with other women himself and sees it as completely insignificant. He holds Maria to a higher standard of behavior.

I won't reveal the whole story or the ending, but some of the subject matter may disturb a few viewers, even though there is no nudity or bad language. It's a realistic portrayal of Maria's life, and that inevitably leads to a few scenes that are hard to watch.

If you enjoy character studies and seeing how people might have lived a century ago, Everlasting Moments might be for you. The Blu-ray presentation is excellent and exactly what you would expect from Criterion. The special features include a look at Jan Troell's career in film (61 minutes), and two documentaries on the film and Maria Larsson's story (29 minutes and 10 minutes). There's also a 20-page book which includes an essay about the film.
22 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Everlasting Moments is OUTSTANDING Dec 12 2009
By S. Detweiler - Published on Amazon.com
As a photography teacher I found the film outstanding for college level students or anyone who loves photography. It has a quiet yet powerful way it moves through a story about a woman and how essentially she is saved because of her ability with the camera and to take pictures. The film itself is packed full of powerful images and moments of realization. Wonderful dialogue and moments all real photographers can relate to that floats in and out of the story about photography and the position of the photographer such as quotes that went something like this "when I am photographing I forget I am a mother" or "not everyone can see". I would watch it again and again. If you are not a photographer but have a heart at all its an enduring story that anyone can appreciate and enjoy. Amazing film - I was carried away.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Everlasting Moments" Criterion Blu-Ray Review July 8 2010
By Leif Sheppard - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Blu-ray
This review contains "spoilers", so for those to which this causes distress I offer fair warning.

There's a singular moment anyone who has ever held a camera recognizes, a moment of absolute clarity, a recognition that somehow seeing the world through those lens invites a different view than what our eyes initially present. A professional photographer can probably wax poetic about the virtues of image capture far better than I, but even a casual photographer can recognize the key to great photography is how the image is lit and framed. It's an innate talent some appear to be blessed with: the protagonist Maria Larsson of "Everlasting Moments" certainly was, along with this cinematographer of this beautifully shot 2008 Swedish film.

First, a word about the quality of the transfer. Considering this is a Criterion release, I expected the best, but on very rare occasions I've been a bit disappointed with their work. "Everlasting Moments" is filmed in something of a degraded color scheme which is closer to sepia tone than sharp color, no doubt an artistic decision on the part of the director. That said, the image on this Blu-Ray is extremely sharp and full of detail and texture, which is accompanied by a heavy sheen of grain. I was often impressed with the quality of this transfer, a transfer that highlights the beauty of the cinematography and remains faithful to the director's original intentions. I've not a single complaint in this department.

The essay booklet and supplementary material are notably quite substantial, a factor which makes the steep Criterion price tag worth it. The centerpiece of the four included special features is an hour long career retrospective on the work of director Jan Troell titled "Troell's Magic Mirror". The presentation is a bit pretentious at times, but can be easily overlooked with the abundance of information and interviews concerning a fascinating life and career. Were I forced to estimate, there's roughly forty five to fifty minutes of excellent viewing and about ten minutes of extraneous filler. The second feature is a half hour piece titled "Troell Behind the Camera". This functions as more of a "making of" special focusing on "Everlasting Moments". The third feature is a nine minute piece called "The True Story of Maria Larsson" featuring a voiceover by Troell's wife discussing the reality behind the drama along with some of Maria's photographs. The fourth and final feature is a two minute theatrical trailer.

"Everlasting Moments" focuses primarily on the rocky marriage between Maria and her husband, along with the struggles such a contentious relationship has on their numerous children. Sigfrid Larsson is a strong, handsome, talented man who doesn't shy away from a hard day's work. Unfortunately he's also a bitter, violent alcoholic and habitual womanizer. Maria Larsson, for her part, is reserved and demure - but not submissive. Upon discovering a long forgotten camera among her possessions, Maria takes it to the local photography studio to see if it needs repair and possibly sell it. The proprietor of the shop, Sebastian Pederson, immediately takes a liking to Maria and offers to eventually purchase the camera.

In the meantime, he allows her to keep it and use it, with the intention of deducting the cost of the supplies from the purchase price. Maria is a natural photographer, capable of capturing hauntingly beautiful images under the most austere circumstances. With the encouragement of Mr. Pederson her hobby becomes her escape mechanism from the struggles of everyday life, much as husband chooses to escape via excessive drinking. It's an interesting contrast.

Aside from the excellent premise, I must give special mention to the outstanding production values of the film, which enabled the general feel of an early twentieth century village to be captured in glorious detail. Anyone who has enjoyed the production design of films such as "My Left Foot", "Pelle the Conqueror", or the more recent "The White Ribbon" will surely marvel at the exemplary work of "Everlasting Moments".

Prior to viewing this film, one should know that the film remains almost entirely focused on Maria's family for the two hour duration. I've read a certain element of reviews, both professional and amateur, that complain that the film is too slowly paced and borderline uninteresting. I never found the film to be either, but I can understand some viewers may be put off by the great detail paid to the Brief Encounter-esque relationship between Maria and Mr. Pederson or the quite normal machinations of the family in general.

Indeed, I found the film to be rife with interesting diversions such as the detail paid to the odd jobs Sigfrid received over the years, including the harsh nature of the work and the apparently futile labor strikes. More than that, the film is so perfectly cast that it's quite easy to find oneself swept away by the interactions of the characters. Watching Maria's unbridled joy at noticing her photograph was printed in the newspaper is one of many moments very nearly guaranteed to make the viewer smile. By contrast, it's nearly unbearably sad when Sigfrid's friend Englund meets his end. None of which would be possible, of course, unless the characters engaged the viewer on an emotional level.

It's been suggested that "Everlasting Moments" makes some sort of feminist statement or carries a message of female empowerment. I found the tale rather contrary to that interpretation. If the film is explored by those terms I find it more of a love story than anything else, albeit a thoroughly unconventional one. Perhaps a "fractured fairy tale" for adults. We know Maria deeply loves Sigfrid, primarily because she remains with him despite his numerous and troublesome faults. This is particularly highlighted by her choice not to sell his prized horse while he was imprisoned, despite the desperately needed financial benefits of doing so, despite the fact that he often displayed a general indifference towards her feelings, and despite the fact that he often acted as a hindrance to her designs of being a photographer.

Some have misinterpreted the ending as too saccharine and therefore unrealistic, due to a perceived impression that Sigfrid suddenly alters his behavior from a bitter, violent alcoholic to a more stable, loving man. The ending, though, is what the viewer wishes to make of it. The family's fortunes may have changed, and there's that gloriously shot scene of Maria and Sigfrid joyously dancing, but Sigfrid may never have changed. The only certain element is that Maria stood by him. On that note, suffice it to say that while it's true "Everlasting Moments" is based on a true story, it's not a biopic in the strictest sense, and is closer to a fictional drama based on real events.

The lingering question most seem to be left with is why exactly did Maria stand by her husband? It could be a myriad of reasons. Perhaps it was due to her fear for her spiritual well-being, as her father had warned that no one should put asunder what God brought together. Perhaps it was because he was a hard worker, a good provider and he did, at least, care very much for his children. Perhaps on some level Maria was attracted to his mischievous nature, that for all the compassion and tenderness the Mr. Pedersons of the world have to offer, they cannot match the roguish charm of her husband. Or maybe, just maybe, it truly was love.
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