Annotation of the film Everlasting Moments

Everlasting Moments Flyer

Everlasting Moments Contessa Camera

(Annotated by Dorothy Lander)

We went to see the film Everlasting Moments, billed as a Den/Fin/Nor/Swe/Gerproduction, at the Soho Curzon on Shaftesbury Avenue last night (May 26, 2009) — the Monday of the bank holiday — £12 each, and worth every haepenny.

I agree with the David Jenkins’ review in Time Out that the film avoids the cliché of conventional paths to women’s empowerment through self-expression, in this case photography. The protagonist, Maria Larsson, a stay-at-home mom with seven kids  and an abusive husband in turn-of-the century working class Swedish city Malmö, takes up photography at the urging of Mr. Pedersen, the proprieter of the pawn shop where she tries to sell the Contessa camera she won in a local lottery.  Following an unconventional path, Maria does embody feminist principles of empowerment and women’s solidarity throughout the film. The subtle shifts from the blurred sepia of this era of photography to today’s technicolour, signal Marla Helskanen, playing Maria Larsson, making soul-searching choices in her life, without inclining to martyrdom. Indeed, she finds independence as a working photographer, becoming the breadwinner for her brood of seven children, by taking family portraits, first when Sigge is jailed for a crime that he did not commit, and later when he is off at war.  Maria does not leave her drunkard and lecher husband Sigge, as the  English subtitles translate him, but she does stand up to him. When Sigge returns home and demands that the queue of women and children in his home get out, she and they refuse. As they continue with the process, Sigge stomps out defeated.

The narrative perspective of the eldest daughter Maya and her struggle with split loyalties to her mother and father makes a powerful commentary on girls learning gender relations in their formative years. Maya is witness to her father’s amorous advances with a woman she does not know,  and makes the most of a “teachable moment” when her father asks her if she learned the ten Commandments, to say “Yes, Thou shalt not commit adultery.”  We see her father chastened and silenced.

The most poignant moment for me of women’s solidarity through art happens at the clothesline when Maria and her friend are folding sheets.  I recently read Fine Lines: A Celebration of Clothesline Culture, by Nova Scotia author Cindy Etter-Turnbull (a.k.a Mrs. Clothesline), who draws attention to the the clothesline as a human universal found in every culture.  The film demonstrates the “snapping” technique that Etter-Turnbull describes — “firmly grasping each piece and giving it a quick sharp shake, hard enough to create a ‘snap’ sound. This shakes off any loose debris and reduces wrinkling” (p.  66). Based on the film, I have to believe that collaborative snapping is not only more effective but amplifies the sound.  All the while at the clothesline, Maria is bewailing that her son Erik, the consequence of marital rape, has polio and blaming herself because she had tried to abort him by jumping from table to floor — a method that she had heard about from her friend. Her friend insists that it was not Maria’s fault and without a word spoken, they (and we who are watching the film) hearken back to Maria asking this same friend if she could photograph her child Elsa who has Downs Syndrome.  This is another subtle subtext: just as Maria found worth and beauty in her friend’s child, which in turn allowed the mother to see this too, Maria is being challenged to find worth and beauty in her son Erik. For another friend, Maria photographed her drowned child Ingeborg in the coffin. Through Maya’s eyes — Maya says this was the most difficult event of her childhood — her mother, and by extension, Maya herself, are given solace through art, through the “everlasting moments” of photography.

Because of my own research and exposure to the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (Lander, 2007), I was also taken with the temperance references, and the clear connection between drunkenness and family violence. In Time Out, David Jenkins has Sigge “teetering on the cusp of redemption” and this is manifest in his last of many blue-collar jobs of haulage with horses, including bringing supplies to a temperance picnic. The causal link between consumption of alcohol and violence against women was clear in temperance representations in North America and Sweden, where the women’s temperance movement was particularly active in the late 19th and early 20th century.  The temperance backlash seems to have infected this film with the culture of silence, which could have more directly made the causal link between alcohol and the abuse of power in the marital rape episode, which is not named as such.  In this case, subtlety is disempowering, reinforcing today’s gentrified language of “dually affected families” (Daily & Hodgson, 1988) and “diminished capacity” (Weinstock, Leong, & Silva, 1996), and the “abuse of power within relationships” (Health Canada). What happened to “battered women” and “marital rape.”

Works Cited

Daily, B.,& Hodgson, M. (1988). Dually affected families: Substance abuse and people abuse. In T. Martens (Ed.), The spirit weeps (Characteristics and dynamics of incest and child sexual abuse with a Native perspective) (pp. 188-222). Edmonton, AB:  Nechi  Institute.

Etter-Turnbull, C. (2006). Fine lines: A celebration of clothesline culture. Lawrencetown Beach, NS: Pottersfield Press.

Lander, D. (2007). Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. In G. L. Anderson & K. G. Herr (Eds.), Encyclopedia of activism and social justice (Vol. 3, pp. 1474-1477). London: Sage.

Weinstock, R., Leong, G. B., & Silva, J. A. (1996). California’s diminished capacity defense: Evolution and transformation.  Bulletin American Academy Psychiatry Law, 24(3), 347-366.

Everlasting-Moments-film--001

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~ by artpoped on June 13, 2009.

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