Published Jun 12, 2009While it might be corny to imply that a more apt title for this Swedish melodrama would be Everlasting Movie, it isn't far off the mark, given the two-hour-plus running time and the consistent flatness in tone and narrative throughout.
The 2008 official Swedish submission for the Best Foreign Language film at the Academy Awards feels like a well made but dreadfully dull BBC historical re-enactment film about female suffrage, alcoholism, social change in wartime and finding a sense of self through artistic expression. It's perfectly fine but staying home and assembling cheap furniture while eating meatballs would be more fun.
Our identification here is with Maria Larsson (Maria Heiskanen), an eventual mother of seven, married to an alcoholic (Mikael Persbrandt) in the early 1900s. Opening the film is a tale of a camera won at a lottery years earlier, which comes into play when Maria decides to pawn the item for money to buy food. It is here she meets Sebastien (Jesper Christensen), a photographer and studio owner who not only convinces Maria to keep the camera but also teaches her how to photograph.
We sense there are feelings between the two but never are they acted upon, nor does Maria become a famous photographer, as the formula might suggest. The film is faithful to its time, as Maria is true to her life obligations and the discovery of personal meaning within that. In this capacity the film is smart, sincere and unpretentious, which is fantastic, it's just a shame that the emotional connection desired simply is not there.
Instead, the film spans over a decade, through moves, imprisonments, disappointments and physical battles, with a little socialism tossed in for good measure. It's technically a great film, with fantastic performances, tenderness to characters and a bittersweet message, but it drags on for too long with too much focus on the mundane.
Of course, this mixture may very well be the perfect blend for older audiences looking for a compassionate tale of silent affirmation. (E1)