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- The Emigrants
- 191 min.
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I don't understand how more people haven't seen this film, it is long but it is truly great.
Jan Troell evokes the hardships and struggles of the emigrants, as well as their passionate but almost desperate yearning for a better life in America.
Many movies tries to tell about life in the 19th century. This one gives a view into the 19th century mind and how they perceived the world. For me very few movie actually does this, and it's difficult for me to remember one that does it without really trying to be smart. And it isn't even the main part of the movie, but these small "i never taught about it that way" will ensure that this movie is one I'll never forget. That the cinematography and the acting is top class definitely helps as well. But most of all, this is a story well told.
I kind of wish I'd seen Jan Troell's The Emigrants in the 190-minute, original Swedish-language cut, but only because I found the English dub distracting, not necessarily because I wanted more of the film. It's very good, but it's also what we call in French Canada "un film de misère" (literally, a misery film). We spend a third of the film watching the hardships of the 19th-Century peasant class in Sweden, until they decide to embark on a voyage that's just as hard, and their rose-colored image of America means they'll probably know hardship there as well. Troell creates many images of simple, mundane freedom along the way, preparing us for the journey, and cleverly includes characters who believe themselves persecuted for their religion (which is not the case for Max von Sydow and Liv Ullmann's family) to create parallels to the Book of Exodus. Indentured servitude in Sweden is thus akin to slavery in Egypt, there's a manna scene, the religious extremists on the voyage view themselves as the Chosen, and Minnesota is presented as the Promised Land. It's not one-for-one, so don't expect any burning bushes or Commandments, but it's definitely there and makes things more engaging for me. But it's still a film de misère, and there's just so much one terrible thing happening after another I can take in one sitting.
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In 7 official lists
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This movie ranks #9 in Guldbagge Award - Best Swedish Film
This movie ranks #17 in FLM's Best Swedish Films of All Time
This movie ranks #43 in Stanley Kubrick, Cinephile
This movie ranks #60 in Doubling the Canon
This movie ranks #86 in Academy Award - Best International Feature Film Nominees
This movie ranks #286 in Academy Award - Best Picture Nominees
This movie ranks #936 in The Criterion Collection