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Max von Sydow,
Sweden, early 1900s - an era of social change and unrest, war and poverty. A young working class woman, Maria, wins a camera in a lottery. The camera grants her the eyes to view the world, and empowers her over several decades to raise and nurture her family of six children and an alcoholic, womanizing and sometimes violent, although ultimately loving, husband.Written by
Based on the true story of working-class housewife and part-time photographer Maria Larsson, Jan Troell's film required financing from five different countries, and was almost five years in the making. When Maria Larsson (Maria Heiskanen) discovers a valuable camera in her home, she takes it to a pawn shop in order to raise some money when her husband Sigfrid (Mikael Persbrandt) loses his job. The shop owner Pedersen (Jesper Christensen) takes a special interest in the camera and shows Maria its sentimental value by demonstrating the way it manages to capture light in order to photograph an image. Having to care for her family while her abusive husband goes on strike at the shipyards, she finds solace in taking pictures as favours for the townspeople, and discovers she has a natural talent for capturing the true art of everyday life.
Filmed in grainy sepia, the cinematography manages to capture the feel of the 1900-era that we modern people see only through old photographs and silent films. It's an ingenious decision as the both looks beautiful, and helps transfer the viewer into a time that we can only experience through the work of people like Maria Larsson. Credit must go to Heiskanen who captures both the suffocating pressure of her characters situation, and her stiff-upper lipped determination and strength to maintain her love for photography that is opposed by her hard-drinking husband. Persbrandt is excellent too, helping develop Sigfrid as a fully-realised character, struggling with both the class situation and the influx of British workers that are taking the jobs while he and his co-workers strike and live in near-poverty. A beautiful film, sensitively handled by the director.
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