Monday, September 6, 2010

Jan Troell's "Everlasting Moments": Struggle of Working-Class Women for Human Dignity

Looking for a good movie to watch on this long holiday weekend?  I highly recommend Jan Troell's "Everlasting Moments," which we watched yesterday.  As Roger Ebert's review in Chicago's Sun Times indicates, it's a quietly told story of the struggle of a young working-class Swedish mother in the first part of the 20th century, to maintain her human dignity in a world that persistently tramples on her dignity.

Not much of significance happens during the film.  And yet everything of significance happens.  The protagonist, Maria Larsson, copes with her husband's drunken violence, his attempt to thwart her aspirations to become a photographer, his rape of her when she crosses him, his imprisonment after repeated attacks on her, and the struggle to keep her large family fed and housed.

Through it all, she maintains dignity and manages--somehow, miraculously--to hang onto the shreds of her love for the man she married.  As she recognizes that his alcoholism and violence reflect the trap in which working-class people of her time and place found themselves, as they sought simply to make ends meet and feed their families . . . .

The world in which Maria lived afforded few opportunities to women, and even fewer to women at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder.  When her husband begins to beat her, she goes to her parents for shelter and sympathy, only to hear the traditional message that women who go through these experiences often hear from family members: you've made your bed hard, and now you must lie in it.  You married him before God for better or for worse.  Go home and live with him and fulfill the promises you made in the sight of God when you chose him as your husband.

Knowing that the narrative is based on a true story, on information one of Maria's descendants gathered as she traced her family's history, makes the film even more poignant--a poignant reminder of the difficult struggle women have faced throughout history, and continue to face, as they seek to live lives of dignity and humanity in a world that denies these qualities to women, and particularly to working-class women.  As she records with her keen eye and camera the "everlasting moments" of the lives of the urban poor among whom she lives, while no one records the precious moments of her own short life . . . . 

A first-rate Labor Day movie: I highly recommend it.

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