New film reveals the sexual politics behind the 'Moomin' comics

July 5, 2021
Tove film poster

Directed by Zaida Bergroth
Starring Alma Pöysti, Krista Kosonen, Shanti Roney, Joanna Haartti
In Swedish and Finnish with subtitles
Screening nationally as part of the Scandinavian Film Festival

The Swedish-speaking Finnish artist, cartoonist and novelist, Tove Jansson, was the creator of Moomin, the popular children’s cartoon series. This stylish biopic covers her life from the wartime years when Finland was under German domination to the period when she began establishing herself as an independent artist in the 1950s.

It focuses on her painful development as a painter and how she segued into the Moomin work that brought her fame.

Jansson was part of a left-wing, bohemian crowd practising free love and heavy drinking to the liberatory swing of jazz music. Tove is a character-driven film focussing on the complexities of Jansson’s sexual awakening as a lesbian.

Her sexual awakening was part of her transformation as an artist.

Tove references in passing how she brought allusions to her friends and gay imagery into the Moomin comics.

In her circle lesbians were referred to as “spooks”. As Jansson investigates her attraction to women, Moomin enters the “house of spooks” with cartoon characters representing women in her life.

Another person who pops up in Moomin world is Atos Wirtanen, the Finnish far-left parliamentarian, who was also Jansson’s lover.

The film appears to have been shot on a relatively low budget, with few exterior scenes and crowds of extras. However, the producers make up for that with a fascinating reproduction of the fashions and feel of the era.

The other area they maximised was acting talent. Finland has a population of only five and half million, but judging by this film, it doesn’t lack for fine actors.

[The trailer for Tove can be seen here. A background discussion of the film with the director, Zaida Bergroth and lead actor, Alma Pöysti can be seen here.]

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