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As Inge buries her husband Olaf on their Minnesota farm in 1968, we relive her life story as she tells her grown grandson about how she arrived from Germany in 1920 as Olaf's postal bride and of the obstacles they overcame in order to marry... Written by
Wonderfully nostalgic, funny, sad, ironic tale of immigrant farmers in Minnesota
Delightful, richly imagined story of a young immigrant woman who comes from Norway to Minnesota in 1919 as a "mail order bride" to marry a Norwegian farmer. By turns slapstick funny, tender, ironic and sad, this movie successfully evokes the difficult life of foreign homesteaders in a new land, in a story told simply, with no pretensions and with a wondrous range of nuances.
We confront outrageous instances of religious, ethnic and political bigotry, and the cruel predations of wealthy money lenders who don't blink an eye when pressing foreclosures, ruining families who have sat elbow to elbow with them at church every Sunday for years. But we also see examples of kindheartedness, longing for love and gradually dawning romance, individual integrity and group justice, not to mention hilarious moments, both intentional and unintended.
Inge (Elizabeth Reaser, a luminous beauty) is the stalwart German woman who comes to marry the reticent Olaf (Tim Guinee), who had thought she was Norwegian like him, since she came from a town in Norway. Olaf is a character straight out of a Garrison Keillor monologue: he's the quintessential shy Norwegian bachelor farmer.
Inge, on the other hand, is deferential only because she can't speak English or Norwegian, only German, and that only with the church pastor, Rev. Sorrensen (John Heard), who refuses to conduct the wedding because Inge has no citizenship papers and, ironically, he is suspicious of her German roots, in a time when anti-German sentiment was still at a peak following WW I. Once Inge's got a handle on language, she starts to show her pluck, for, beneath her stunning physical beauty, Inge is in fact a forceful woman.
Comic relief is afforded in a marvelous turn by Alan Cumming as Frandsen, another - and altogether inadequate farmer. Rather than actually work at farming, Frandsen would much rather entertain his wife and nine kids, and his friends, with funny gestures and tunemaking. Cumming's performance reminds me of Ray Bolger as the scarecrow in Wizard of Oz, or Håkan Hagegård, as Papageno in Bergman's "The Magic Flute," or some of the masters of physical comedy in the silent film era. Rounding out a superb cast are Ned Beatty as Harmo, a ruthless banker, and Alex Kinston as Frandsen's wife, Brownie.
Director Ali Selim, a native of St. Paul, Minnesota, had a highly successful career making commercials for television before undertaking this picture, his debut feature narrative film. He worked from a short story by Bemidji writer Will Weaver, called "Gravestone Made of Wheat." The movie was shot on location in a rural area of southwest Minnesota. This film will leave you laughing and crying. It is a treasure. (In English, German and Norwegian) My grades: 8.5/10 (A-) (Seen on 12/26/06)
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