In an earlier Finnish film, "Hella W," we witnessed a dramatized version of the life of an infamous business woman and author of the Niskavuori saga - hailed by some as the greatest female writer in all the country, by others a woman of power to be feared politically and in business. The movie became an instant success.
Now for June's Club Indigo, paving the way toward FinnFest we have "Everlasting Moments," starring Maria Heiskanen, in another dramatized true story about a woman who in the early 1900s achieved fame as a portrait photographer, despite serious obstacles at home.
The year is 1907. Heiskanen portrays Maria Larsson, a cleaning woman and piecemeal seamstress in the Swedish port city of Malmo, who struggles uncomplainingly with the constant grind of poverty and an alcoholic dock-worker husband, Sigge, who is loving and supportive when sober and an abusive womanizer when he's tanked, and the pressures of raising her seven children in a morally righteous and respectable social environment.
Then something happens to change her life forever.
To raise money for food, she tries to sell a camera she had won to a professional photographer, the kindly, urbane Sebastian, who notices something special in the one image that remains in her camera, and encourages her to keep the camera and continue shooting.
When her husband joins the army and is sent off to defend the country's honor in the Great War, the instinctively gifted Maria sets up a wedding and portrait studio in their one-room apartment. It isn't long before she builds up a roaring trade.
Her small moments of financial self-reliance and personal satisfaction are ruined with relentless regularity every time Sigge returns home - from a strike, the war, binges, affairs with other women and a stretch in prison. But under the caring influence of Sebastian's painstaking mentorship and doting affection, Maria is able to fend off despair by taking refuge in her photographs the "everlasting moments" from her life.
She helps us, with her camera and her forgiving nature, to understand that her reality is not what everyone else sees. That she is able to redeem her brutish husband in our eyes is completely believable, thanks to the talented actress and the entire cast, but especially to director Jan Troell ("The Emigrants," "The New Land"), whose assured and sensitive grip on a story that, in lesser hands, might have been just another maudlin period melodrama - turning it instead into a moving story about class, faith, artistic fulfillment and the mysteries of true love.
While actress Heiskanen magnificently caries the role of Maria Larsson through its changes from year to year, it is director Troell who develops the world around her. The city settings are astonishingly realistic. The gender politics (women are good, men are bad) is toned down when learned through Maria's patient demeanor. The settings are somewhat drab, the film is bathed in the sepia tone of old-fashioned snapshots. It honors the past, but without the cloying nostalgia. And for all the highs and lows, it continually stresses the fact that life is worth celebrating. All it takes is the gift of seeing its beauty. This is not just a movie. It is an event.
This remarkable movie will be shown at the Calumet Theatre at 7:15 p.m. on Friday, June 14. It will be preceded at 6 p.m. by a Nordic buffet from the chefs at Kangas Cafe, Hancock. Cost for both film and buffet, $19. Film alone, $5. Prices are discounted for children 10 and younger. For seating at the buffet, a call to the theatre should be made, if possible, before Thursday at 5 p.m.: 337-2610.
A word should be added regarding one of the Copper Country's once-in-a-lifetime international treats, FinnFest USA 2013. From Monday, June 17 through Thursday, June 20, Copper Country residents can enjoy, right here at home, a celebration of a particular people who joined thousands of others to come to work in the mines, in lumbering and in fishing, to remain and play an important part in the development and tone of our Copper Country. Now we can partake in the tours, lectures, movies, theatrics, concerts and any or all of the exciting offerings. Nothing like this will ever happen here again.
The Finlandia committee has done an admirable job in putting the events together, from advance publication to setting up of housing and lodgings for non-Yoopers to arranging for well over fifty events - all of which are detailed in the registration form - available virtually anywhere around the area, as well as online (www.finnfestusa2013.org) or by calling the university for further information (487-7205). Now it's our turn as local citizens to join in, not as passive bystanders, but as proud friends and brothers to the heritage that has played so important part in the formation of our Copper Country. - Oh, and good news just added from Copper Harbor: summer bingo has begun again: Wednesdays in the Community Center, at 6 p.m.
Rotten Tomatoes average: "After Earth," D