Finnish artist and writer Tove Jansson is best known for creating the beloved children’s characters The Moomins. Her incredible sweep of talents included painting, illustration, writing, cartooning, and theatrical design. She also lead a fascinating and passionate life as a free-spirited left-wing intellectual in post-war Europe.
Director Zaida Bergroth’s Tove takes around ten years of Jansson’s life, from World War II to the early 50s, and deeply explores her extraordinary energy and passion.
Jansson struggled to come out from the shadow of her father, beloved sculptor Viktor Jansson. Constantly turned down for grants to support her painting, she eventually turns to cartooning, illustration, and writing, including the creation of the Moomins.
The screenplay by Eeva Putro (who also appears as Maya), explores the development of Jansson’s varied creative pathways, and touches on her difficult relationship with her father. But fundamentally it is a love story. The central relationship in the film is that between Jansson and theatre director Vivica Bandler. Alma Pöysti as Tove and Krista Kosonen as Vivica sizzle with chemistry. These two outstanding characterisations become something even greater when they are on screen together. Shanti Roney also gives a subtle and measured performance as left-wing intellectual and politician, Atos Wirtanen, to whom Jansson was briefly engaged.
Bergroth and Putro have deftly avoided the standard bio-pic. Tove is so much more: a slice of Finnish society in the 40s and 50s; an exploration of the checks and balances required for a satisfying artistic life; a look at changing social prescriptions; and most of all, a portrait of an exuberant and passionate human being, and the extraordinary people with whom she surrounded herself.
It is, like the woman herself, a joyous triumph.
Tove is screening as part of the Scandinavian Film Festival, which opens on July 13th at Palace Nova Eastend.
Click here for screening details.