Director: JAN TROELL
SWEDEN-DENMARK-FINLAND-GERMANY 2008 SUBTITLED COLOUR DOLBY DIGITAL STEREO 35MM 131 MIN
MUCH REVERED IN HIS NATIVE SWEDEN, WRITER-DIRECTOR JAN TROELL RETURNS TO THE INTERNATIONAL SPOTLIGHT AT THE AGE OF 77 WITH THIS BEAUTIFULLY MEASURED PORTRAIT OF AN ORDINARY WOMAN WHOSE PHOTOGRAPHS CAPTURED THE WORKERS’ LOT IN MALMÖ BEFORE AND AFTER WWI.
Based on a real-life relative of the filmmaker’s wife, it recreates a time past and indeed time passing with the sort of languid glow that even Terrence Malick would be proud to claim as his own. With an ever-growing brood of kids, and a husband who’s a handful when he’s sober, a nightmare when he’s drunk, Maria Heiskanen’s doughty heroine has a lot to contend with. Discovering an unused box camera won in a lottery, her first thought is to sell it, but when the proprietor of the local photographic shop finds an exposed plate within and develops it, seeing the result sparks some hidden inspiration in her. Courtesy of the shopkeeper’s kindness, she gets the camera on an extended loan and proves a natural behind the lens, capturing decisive moments which are not only a source of pleasure in themselves but provide an island of self-worth in an otherwise hardscrabble existence.
Troell, who also shot the film in 16mm for a persuasive vintage look, is in no rush to hurry events along, instead allowing seemingly episodic events strikes, infidelity, the coming of war to build, gradually and quite cannily, into a totally involving fresco, where the characters’ everyday struggles compel our emotional investment. In the end, we haven’t just watched these people, we feel as if we’ve lived alongside them. A future classic. Trevor Johnston.