“Tove” is Finnish gem. Impeccable as to acting, writing, cinematography and direction. As a reviewer of films, I have little interest in the big Hollywood “blockbusters” although I will admit “Sound of Metal” which received a few Oscar nominations was a welcome break from the Hollywood blockbusters one sees 70% of Air Canada passengers watching on a flight to and back from Europe. That was years ago when I was last in Europe where just about everyone was watching “Black Panther” while I was listening to Electro Trance. And I had the East Indian special meal while for most it was chicken or pasta and knowing Air Canada they run out of the standard choices so you end up with pasta. So my tastes may differ from the mainstream.
It is during the end of the Second World War in Helsinki that painter Tove Jansson struggles as a painter to make a living. Her art on canvass does not capture the Finnish audience. She is the daughter of a famous Finnish sculptor who urges Tove to continue painting but Tove isn’t selling oil on canvas very well. But as a sideline to keep her relaxed she has created a comic series of drawings-based on creating characters called Moomins that live in a fantasy world. To put her work into context she is ahead of H.R Crumb “Felix the Cat” by decades although her cartoons are much more wholesome. But they are innovative and unique. She is asked by Vivica Bandler, daughter of the mayor of Helsinki and a theatre director, to make invitations for her father’s birthday party. She then is asked to create a mural at City Hall. And her distraction now becomes her career which takes off after she writes a play on the Moomin world, directed by Vivica, which is a smashing success and leads to a daily comic strip in a leading London newspaper.
Tove’s Moomin sidelines her desire to be a painter and the fantasy world she has created strikes a chord with the world so a painter is converted into a comic strip artist. She is exposed to the comic strip world by her lover a married Parliamentarian Socialist and newspaper owner Wirtanen. And her cartoon fantasy world takes Finland and Europe by storm. This includes a passionate lesbian relationship with Vivica Bandler.
Vivica is a bit of a promiscuous lesbian with a long string of lovers. There is no permanent connection with her and Tove eventually settles down with a Finnish lesbian until her death in 2001.
A story of an artist with a love of painting overshadowed by her comic strip, plays and novels based on the Moomin world. One is not certain if Tove has accepted her fame without reservation.
Tove settled into a lesbian relationship until her death in 2001. I see her as a combination of H&R Crumb “Felix the Cat” and J.K. Rowling “Harry Potter”.
Was there some horrific struggle consuming Tove as a painter vs. a cartoonist? I do not think that is the case but there is her strong desire to be recognized as a painter which is not accepted by her sculptor father nor the authorities awarding grants to artists. She is hurt by the lack of recognition as a painter but well rewarded as a cartoonist.
The film starts either virtually or in theatre July 2 in the Inside Out Festival (Toronto)/Cinema du Musée (Montreal)/ViIFF Connect (Vancouver)/Carbon Arc (Halifax). As of August 10th it can be rented on Vimeo.
Note the title of the picture she is painting at the end of the film!
The film is based on Tove Jansson’s life. With English subtitles.
You can catch the trailer here. https://vimeo.com/ondemand/tove2/518184800
The film seems promoted subtlety as an LGBTQ film. I can agree with that but the life of Tove is so fascinating the LGBTQ angle is subsumed.
The film is directed by Zaida Bergoth. Alma Pöysti as Tove deserves an Academy Award for her riveting performance. Krista Kosonen as Vivica also deserves an Academy Award for best supporting actress.