The Finnish artist and illustrator Tove Jansson first began writing the Moomins books in the 1940s, the stories born originally from her doodles and the escapist nature of her mind. Come the turn of the 21st century, her characters and the Moominland universe constitute some of the most renowned children’s fiction across the world, with books, television series, theatre productions and even a theme park all stemming from her original comic strips. However, life was not simple for Jansson as she tackled her own personal battles and lack of early success. This is her story, aptly titled Tove, told by director Zaida Bergroth and written by Eeva Putro.
Presented in biopic form, Tove spans a number of years, exploring the artist’s relationships with friends, lovers and others in her industry. Finland – and indeed Europe itself – is suffering from the scars of the Second World War, but rising from the ruins like a phoenix is Tove (Alma Poysti), a creative soul pursuing her dreams with a restless and impressive drive. She is a fascinating individual, expressing herself on the canvas and through her lifestyle, a convivial liberal who finds herself drawn to the allure of Vivica Bandler (Krista Kosonen), a theatre director with a powerful aura. As the two entwine in a romantic relationship, Tove begins the real test of establishing how much of life truly is an adventure, and how much of it can be tarnished by the instability of a relationship driven by lust over love.
Tove is politically quick-witted, beautifully portraying the early years of Jansson’s career, and incorporating wonderful exchanges of dialogue. Alongside the lovely writing, Poysti is magnificent, embodying the artist with every inch of her being and wrapping the viewer’s affections around her little finger in a masterful manipulation of the heartstrings. The film seizes on the confidence of its two leading ladies, creating an endearing and encapsulating watch as Tove encounters conversations, events and people that influence her life and the creation of her art, even down to the fine elements of Moomins dancing.
Matti Bye’s delicate, dreamlike score accompanies numerous scenes like a glove to a hand, provoking feelings of joy out of moments of innocence. Partner this with the 35mm film visual appearance, and this individual adventure story comes to life. As the narrative progresses there is a slight sense of déjà vu to the plot, but the movie cannot be held responsible, since it is indeed based on a true story.
Tove was selected as the Finnish entry for the Best International Feature Film at the 93rd Academy Awards, albeit not eventually nominated, but as it hits the festival scene one thing can certainly be assured: Tove believed she turned to theatre and comic strips because she “failed as an artist”, but in reality she found her true calling, and Tove is a beautiful, mesmeric depiction of how she truly succeeded and earned her place in history.
Tove does not have a UK release date yet.
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Watch the trailer for Tove here: