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In the middle of the 19th century, Kristina and Karl-Oskar live in a small rural village in Smaaland (southern Sweden). They get married and try to make a living on a small spot of land. However, the small size of their land, the infertile soil, and some bad harvests makes it tough. One of their children even starve to death. Thus, they decide to emigrate to the U.S. They meet a group of farmers with their families planing the emigration under the leadership of a banned priest. They sell everything and embark for the U.S. The journey on the sailing ship is long and tedious. Some of the emigrants will never reach the New World. Written by
Gerhard Windecker <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Jan Troell and Wilhelm Moberg had a disagreement whether the actors should use dialects. Troell wanted all actors to speak Småländska (the dialect spoken in county Småland where the story takes place) while Moberg wanted no dialects. As a compromise Karl-Oskar and Kristina speak with a dialect while many of the others such as Robert and Arvid only speak with a very light accent. See more »
On the train west a character shows an American silver coin and yells out it has "In God We Trust" on it. The scene is the 1850s and the motto was not added to American silver coins until 1867. See more »
There are two kinds of people in America. First, those who have lived here long and become rich. And then there's those who are newly arrived and haven't yet become rich.
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A realistic look at the pursuit of the American dream
When Jan Troell's "The Emigrants" was released in the U.S. in 1972, it opened to excellent reviews and received the honor of being one of the few foreign-language films to receive a Best Picture nomination. It didn't win anything, though, and seems to have been forgotten over the years. Perhaps this is because the public has since found other Swedish films to be more noteworthy, in particular the works of Bille August and the later works of Ingmar Bergman.
Sad to say, because "The Emigrants" is a film that closely examines two very different cultures in an effective and insightful way. A diverse group of Swedish peasants (among them a married couple, a priest, a prostitute, and a young upstart) endure back-breaking labor in their homeland to little profit. They decide to move to the states after being influenced by the exaggerated stories spread abroad (everyone has more than enough food, everyone is filthy rich, etc.). The audience sympathizes with them not just because they endure so much in Sweden, but also because they believe the stories they hear about frontier life in America. Yes, they will obviously have to strive and struggle to survive in their new home, but they are all the more admirable because of their adherence to the American dream.
"The Emigrants" is harsh and often unrelenting in the straightforward way it depicts the realities encountered by the Swedish settlers. The scenes where they travel across the ocean in a small, cramped, and diseased ship are appropriately claustrophobic and terrifying. Later, the family at the center of the story threatens to break up when Liv Ullmann's character, a fragile young mother, loses track of her daughter while hurrying to board a steamboat.
Although most of the characters were better developed in the sequel to this film, "The New Land," Troell's story is very moving in its sincere depiction of how outsiders came to this country to pursue their hopes and dreams.
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