Finnish cartoonist subject of biopic
A scene from “Tove,” a film about Finnish artist Tove Jansson.

Finnish cartoonist subject of biopic

Epsilon Spires screens ‘Tove’ as first film in summer series

BRATTLEBORO — Beginning at sundown on Friday, June 4, Epsilon Spires will project the Finnish film Tove (2020) in the parking lot of the historic First Baptist Church building at 190 Main St.

This Covid-safe event, which takes place at the end of Gallery Walk, will feature refreshments by Madame Jo's crêperie from Trollhaugen Farm in Newfane, and an introductory presentation by Jo Dery, associate professor of film studies at Keene State College.

The first in a series of weekly film screenings this summer, Tove tells the story of Tove Jansson, best known as the creator of the beloved comic strip “The Moomins,” which over the past 76 years has been adapted into several books, television shows, movies, and even a theme park in Jansson's native Finland.

Although Jansson is remembered primarily for her whimsical cartoons, she also led a fascinating life as a free-spirited artist in post-war Europe, engaging in romantic relationships with both men and women as she struggled to reconcile her passion for drawing comics with her family's expectation that she pursue a more refined career as a painter.

The drama of Jansson's love life and artistic self-discovery fuel the plot of this biopic, which was chosen as Finland's entry for the 2020 Academy Awards.

Tove, shot on 16mm film, lushly recreates the bohemian milieu of Helsinki and Paris in the 1950s, with sets and costumes reminiscent of dramas like Mad Men. It explores the challenges Jansson faced while following her heart during an era when her unconventional lifestyle was still highly taboo.

“Tove was a true LGBTQ trailblazer, as she did not hide her relationships with women, even though same-sex relationships in Finland were not legalized until 1971,” Dery said in a news release.

Dery, a comic book artist in addition to her work in film and animation, is a longtime fan of Jansson's. In 2016, she visited the preserved studio in Helsinki where Jansson lived and worked for 50 years. The setting has been faithfully recreated in Tove.

“I see the studio as her sanctuary, where she was able to explore myriad artistic expressions,” Dery says.

For the Backlot Cinema Series, Epsilon Spires transforms its parking lot into a space where viewers can picnic under the stars while watching a diverse collection of films curated by Creative Director Jamie Mohr. Attendees are encouraged to bring blankets, pillows, and chairs to make themselves comfortable.

Tickets range from $10 to $12, depending on the size of your party, and $2 of each ticket goes directly to the restoration and maintenance of the historic church that houses Epsilon Spires.

In the event of inclement weather, the screening will take place in a socially distanced manner in the church sanctuary. Drinks and restrooms will be available throughout the evening.

Subscribe to the newsletter for weekly updates