Finland, Sweden


Helsinki, 1945. The end of the war brings a new sense of artistic and social freedom for painter Tove Jansson. Modern art, dizzying parties and an open relationship with a married politician: Her unconventional life puts her at odds with her sculptor father’s strict ideals. Tove’s desire for liberty is put to the test when she meets theatre director Vivica Bandler. Her love for Vivica is electric and all-consuming but Tove begins to realise that the love she truly yearns has to be reciprocated.

As she struggles with her personal life, her creative endeavours take her in an unexpected direction. While focusing her artistic dreams on her painting, the work that started as a side project, the melancholic, haunting tales she told scared children in bomb shelters, rapidly takes on a life of its own. The exploits of the Moomins, infused with inspiration from her own life, bring Tove international fame and financial freedom. There’s a daily comic strip, a stage play and stories that continue to delight people around the world. But as she begins to find her artistic identity she has to learn to find herself. Her unrequited love for Vivica is preventing her true liberty and only by learning to break away from her can she truly be free. TOVE is a captivating drama about the creative energy of an iconic talent and her turbulent search for identity, desire and freedom.

Director's Statement

Tove Jansson – the ”Moominmamma”, the one that everybody knows, the one put on a pedestal. My impression of her has been this gray haired, wise, unnaturally calm and somehow untouchable human being. The more I have got to know her through the research and preparation I have made for this film about her life, the more surprised I’ve become – this film will be anything but calm and predictable.

Tove’s passion and energy, her strong emotions and how she expressed them and the fact that she was so unconventional; those were the things that surprised me the most.

Tove struggled with serious issues; she was aware of having a predisposition for depression, her relation to her father was complicated and the strenuous intimate relationships left their marks, but her positivity and her ability to always take other people into consideration and really understand them combined with how she looked for and appreciated light and joy, gives me inspiration and hope. These aspects I have wanted to include in the film about Tove. I wanted to depict Tove closely and sensitively and show as many surprising sides of her as possible, so that the audience understands how passionate and wild she was, how much she loved parties and love itself. This film tells about Tove’s life while celebrating courage and independence.

In TOVE, we concentrate on Tove’s life in her thirties and beginning of forties. It starts during WWII and ends with her meeting Tuulikki, the love of her life. The core of the film is her quest to find herself as an artist, seen in the struggle between fine art and the creation of the Moomins, as well as the passionate love stories with Atos Wirtanen and Vivica Bandler. A cool and bohemian ”artist life” that inspired the world famous Moomin characters.

In my earlier films I have often depicted family relations and the search for one’s own identity and my main characters have often been quite different, rugged and unique. With TOVE I once again deal with the same themes and characters that excite me, but this time around I especially enjoy Tove’s inspiring, rambunctious and positive company. Even though the events in her life were sometimes both painful and overwhelming, Tove kept her beautiful outlook on the world and the people in it. It is very comforting that such a wise and understanding person has lived such a wild and uncompromising life. I’m also excited to use my own knowledge in depicting Tove’s life: I’ve lived my childhood surrounded by artists – my mother is a painter and I’ve spent endless hours in her studio. I find it very exciting – and most of all important – to tell this story of an enormously talented and inspiring female artist who continues to have a huge impact on people all around the world.

Director's Biography

Writer-director Zaida Bergroth is one of the foremost artistic voices of her generation in Finland. All her five features have premiered at the Toronto Film Festival and thereafter screened at several other international film festivals, gathering awards at amongst others Busan Intl FF and Chicago Intl FF. Her latest feature TOVE was praised internationally when it screened in Industry Selects at TIFF in 2020, it was a box office success in Finland, where it is the most seen local film for adults the fall of 2020 and it is Finland ́s Oscar submission for Best Foreign Language Film. Bergroth is represented by ICM in the US.

2020 - TOVE
2020 - KRISTAL, short
2017 - MIAMI
2007 - TOWN MANAGER, short
2006 - HEAVY METAL, short
2004 - GLASS JAW, short

Cast & Crew

Directed by: Zaida Bergroth

Written by: Eeva Putko

Produced by: Andrea Reuter, Aleksi Bardy

Cinematography: Linda Wassberg

Editing: Samu Heikkilä

Production Design: Catharina Nyqvist Ehrnrooth

Costume Design: Eugen Tamberg

Make-Up & Hair: Riikka Virtanen

Original Score: Matti Bye

Sound: Micke Nyström

Casting: Minna Sorvoja, Tusse Lande

Main Cast: Alma Pöysti (Tove Jansson), Krista Kosonen (Vivica Bandler), Shanti Roney (Atos Wirtanen)

Nominations and Awards

  • Feature Film Selection 2021