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Strong story of old-time oppression, sadly mauled by disastrous storytelling and self-parody .
In the 1880's, poverty-struck northern rural Sweden, a widow and her family is tormented by a despicable landholder/merchant who demands that the lease for their house, is to be paid in sexual favors once they can't afford the monetary one.
A very strong, simple basic story of old-time oppression, poverty and evil, is inexplicably mauled by a frustrating editing chopfest-technique (title cards, short take, cut - title cards, short take, cut... etc.) one expects to find only in a butcher shop. It's nearly impossible to connect with any character fully, by this type of storytelling and minimal dialog.
Also, because of the limited and claustrophobic setting, the endlessly repetitive dark and murky misery almost becomes a parody of poor rural folk suffering & drudgery in itself: By the umpteenth time bad guy Skarsgård enters the log cabin and wheezes: "It's time to talk about the lease", I'm actually laughing in the midst of deep tragedy - and THAT is a huge problem for any filmmaker. And do we have to read the book to find out what the fudge exactly happens in the (is it metaphorical?) end? Against this, the memorable performances by Ekblad, Skarsgård and Brynolfsson fight as fruitlessly as their characters against a perpetual winter. Sadly, supposedly a top filmmaker's worst movie.
My tip: for better depictions of my countrymen's gripping fates from this time period, check out Jan Troell's "The emigrants"!
3 out 10 from Ozjeppe.
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