100 years ago Finnish novelist, illustrator and painter Tove Jansson—creator of cult comic strip family the Moomins—was born. Since the first Moomin strip was published in 1945, their stories have been filmed for TV plenty of times, but it’s only now that one of the comic strips has been adapted into a film. “Moomins on the Riviera” (which premiered at the BFI London Film Festival last weekend) follows the Moomin family from their happy, slightly anarchic home in the Moominvalley, where a tree grows through their house and days are spent fishing and gardening, to the luxurious life on the French Riviera. The witty, charming story explores what real happiness is and how to appreciate the small things in life, in a beautifully colored movie that stays true to Jansson’s original drawings.
“The director, Xavier (Picard), looked to film posters from the French Riviera in the 1950s as inspiration for the movie’s coloring,” says producer and co-director Hanna Hemilä. “They tend to be a bit unrealistic, which inspired us to make the sea yellow, for example. And we wanted a clear difference between the Moomin Valley and the Riviera, so the valley has these blue-ish and green-ish hues, while the Riviera is yellows and oranges.”
The film’s quirky charm and clean yet detailed drawings should appeal to viewers of all ages, and it’s a fitting homage to Jansson. Her sense of humor and fairness underlines the story, in which the Moomins get to live the high life in France with movie stars and aristocrats before choosing to return to their valley, having inadvertently taught everyone they met about what living a rich life is truly about.
Sophia Jansson, the film’s associate producer and Jansson’s niece, says, “I think the film’s theme is very current—people today are very aware of sustainable life and ecology, and it’s quite accepted to reflect on whether it’s OK to live a luxurious life and just spend, spend, spend, or if there’s something to be said for a simpler life. But of course Tove doesn’t make it that cut and dry—she makes it funny!”
The simple style, calm pace and storybook-feel of the film is a nice counterpoint to 3D-animated films that have currently been dominating theaters and, thanks to the strength of the writing, this 60-year-old story still feels relevant. “Moomins on the Riviera” premieres in the UK this month, and will be shown once more at Odeon West End this Saturday, 18 October 2014.