Friday, January 9, 2009

Everlasting Moments in the Aero Theater...

I just got back from a double feature at the Aero Theater in Santa Monica.

There I saw a screening for two of the 2008 Golden Globe nominees for best foreign films: Everlasting Moments and Waltz with Bashir

They were two astounding and remarkable films that could not have been more different... Except that they were two heavy, heart shattering films.  I'll have more to say about Waltz another time- but since it's been getting all the attention, I'm going to talk about Everlasting Moments now...

I had never seen a film by Jan Troell before, but now I want to see all of his work.  Based on the life of his wife's grandmother, the story of one woman and her family, the film is a perfect vehicle for exploring the specific contours of individual lives as they interact with the vast historical forces of their time: Evangelical temperance movements, socialist anarchism, industrialization, urbanization, war and technological innovation.  It is this last force of change that is perhaps the most personal, as it allows Maria the device that is her means of both observing the world and creating images or great beauty: the still camera.


The trailer for Everlasting Moments

The American festival title, Everlasting Moments, is a bit misleading.   The actual Swedish title  Maria Larssons eviga √∂gonblick captures better the essence- it translates to Maria Larsson's Everlasting Moments.  

And that really is what it's about- it's about the way our protagonist Maria Larsson sees the world and captures her visions in lasting images.  The through line of the film is in Maria's struggle for wholeness- both in safeguarding her family's integrity as well as her newfound craft.

The beauty of this film is in the richness of its vision, both in its formal elements and in the blending shades of thought so humanely presented.  We see the spectacle of domestic violence, of abuse in the home- but its presentation does not take us into one of the two dichotomous possibilities we are conditioned into accepting in the narrative treatment of this subject.  That is the two options of either leaving her abusive husband or being his tragic victim...

Instead, we see the character stand up for herself in subtle ways, but still living through much abuse.  And we see an abusive husband who gradually changes.  Many will say she should have left him...  But that would not be realistic.  And it is truer to our experience in so many situations.  I have seen it with my own eyes: a woman abused, and she should've left him, but the ending is not as tragic as one would expect.  Somehow there is change, somehow there is growth.  Not ideal perhaps, and not with the consciousness one would hope for. But somehow, there it is...

And through it all is the eye of Maria, catching those poetic moments in between, where a light seems to be shine through a thin linen veil...  

Throughout the film, gems of wisdom come spilling out the mouths of its characters, all seeming to articulate the filmmaker's worldview.

"Not everyone has the gift of seeing" one of them says.  And so it is.  But Maria clearly does, and she demonstrates to us what it is to look into all things with a searching eye...

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