The Moomins iconic big snouted hippo-like characters from children's books, comic strips, and toys are known the world over. The big snouted hippos are a regular staple of kids toys on every continent. However not much is known about their creator Tove Jannson (Alma Poysti) a free spirited starving artist who first did the caricatures that would be her life's work as a distraction to fill time. Her real work was painting under the watchful eye of her famous father sculptor (Robert Enckel). If she thought differently her father was always present to remind her that she was wasting her time her characters that were not art. Seeing that she continued to be left off the grant list Tove receives a job offer to create an invite for the Mayors 70th birthday. The provider of the offer was the mayor's daughter Vivica Bandler (Krista Kosonen) another artist whose upper class status and marriage of convivence allows her to pursue all of her wants with little consequence. She runs a local theater spends months on end in Paris where she maintains a flat and soon has Tove under her spell. Tove's other main relationship from the post World War II era of the film is with Socialist Atos Wirtanen (Shanti Roney) a local M.P. He is married but does not hide his relationship with Tove as his wife will call her flat/studio looking for him if they have an appointment that day.
Tove's career as a cartoonist begins to blossom due to an act of kindness from each of her lovers. Vivica gets her dad the mayor to commission a fresco at City Hall for Tove to complete. Viciva sees it as a way for Tove to earn the funds to come and see her in Paris oblivious to how much time the project would take. Atos proposes a comic strip in the local socialist paper which gets her noticed by the Evening News at the time the biggest newspaper in the world.
Director Zaida Bergoth gives a real insight into Tove's life during the pivotal years spanning the film, the lived experience of artists in Finland, and the life philosophy of the title character. Early on Tove declares that she will never get married. She describes Vivica the love of her life as a beautiful Dragon that attacked her but Tove realizes that you cannot hold onto a dragon as they have to go back out into the wild. She also knows that Atmos will do anything for her but she is also not the type of person that would take advantage and hold him to any arrangement.
Tove brings the audience into the world of writers and artisans in post Second World War Europe. Their freedom of expression, passion for each other and the arts. It will remind the viewer of the more celebrated period of artistic exploration a generation before when the late twenties rolled into the early thirties. At the centre of the film it is an influential creative mind behind a global franchise who spirit is captured beautifully in the film.
***1/2 Out of 4.
Tove | Zaida Bergroth | Finland/Sweden | 2020 | 100 Minutes.
Tags: Bomb Shelter ,Dancing, Visual Artists, Gallery Exhibition, Grant, Commission, Momintroll, Thingumy & Bob, Paris, Edith Piaf,