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A realistic look at the pursuit of the American dream
Oblomov_8120 August 2001
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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if you should have the luck of stumbling onto this film at a rental shop, thank Fellini's ghost - grasp it and head for the check out.
erik-konze26 August 2007
Jan Troell, has truly captured the feeling of what inspires people to emigrate and the subsequent hardships that await in the land of hope. True masters of the craft, Sydow and Ullmann, are superb in their performances. They truly pull you into the time, the frame of mind and thus make you feel like you are sharing their voyage. A great film that is everything a film should be - moving. It is a mystery why this film did not win an Oscar for best foreign picture, best actress and best actor - though with all fairness, with both Caberet and The Godfather in the running, it would have required a miracle. If you should have the luck of stumbling onto this film at a rental shop, thank Fellini's ghost - grasp it and head for the check out.
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Everybody in the world with Swedish background should see this!
furienna6 July 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I just want to thank my grandmother (my mother's mother) for buying these four novels some time during her long lifetime and letting me inherit them after her death three years ago. Even though I haven't read all way through them since 2000, I still appreciate having them in my collection, and Grandma even saved me some bucks by letting me inherit her copies. I might also add, that these books were among the few ones, that her husband (my grandfather and my mother's father) ever even looked into, according to Mum. Vilhelm Moberg sure is one of our greatest writers over here in Sweden of all time. If we move over to the movie, it's really good at following the books. I hate it when film-makers do unnecessary changes in the story, when they turn novels into movies. But fortunately, Troell actually followed the books really well. And I really understand, that Vilhelm Moberg wanted him and no one else to make these novels into movies.

The first movie, "Utvandrarna" (The emigrants), is thus a really great movie adaption of the two novels "Utvandrarna" ("The emigrants") and "Invandrarna" ("The immigrants"). It's about how some people from Småland in Sweden decide to emigrate to America in the year 1850. We have Karl Oskar Nilsson, who decides to move to America with his wife Kristina and their children and his younger brother Robert. Even though Kristina was reluctant to leave Sweden, Karl Oskar convinces her to emigrate after their oldest daughter dies, so that the rest of the children can have better lives. Robert is forever marked by how he was treated by his master, when he was a farmhand, and wants to leave for the free country in the west, where servants can't be treated badly. Robert's friend Arvid is accused of having sex with a cow and wants to get away from that nasty rumor and follow Robert to the golden land in the west. Kristina's uncle Danjel and his wife Inga-Lena has to flee Sweden because of religious reasons. The former prostitute Ulrika and her illegitimate daughter Elin don't have anything to lose either. Jonas Petter, a neighbor of Karl Oskar and Kristina, just wants to get away from his unhappy marriage. After a hard journey over the Atlantic, these people come to Minnesota, where there already are a lot of Swedish people.

The story is continued in the movie "Nybyggarna" (The new land).
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Let the Emigrants in
gizmomogwai22 November 2015
One of the few foreign language films to be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards (it didn't win, of course), The Emigrants tells the story of the hardships a family faces in a rural county of Sweden, causing them to look to America as a refuge. What's interesting about The Emigrants is that the film is Swedish- you wouldn't necessarily expect the Swedes to make a film about how awful Sweden is and how great the United States is. But, using a realistic and not melodramatic approach, the film lets us know what the family is struggling with and allows us to understand them.

The characters, played by Ingmar Bergman regulars Max von Sydow, Liv Ullmann and Allan Edwall, face poor harvests, starvation, poverty, religious persecution and even false rumours of bestiality. They look to the US as a place where a farmer can become rich, with even American slavery looking better than their previous situation. Getting to North America, however, will take a rough voyage in which our heroes will face disease, lice and death, and come into psychological conflict with each other. This makes for a strong drama.

Surely one of the best foreign films of the 1970s and a great addition to the strong cinematic year 1971, The Emigrants is an understated but still compelling film, and I look forward to The Criterion Collection's restoration.
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"Memorable historic drama..."
SindreKaspersen10 April 2012
Swedish screenwriter, film editor, cinematographer and director Jan Troell's third feature film which he edited, photographed and wrote with Swedish screenwriter and producer Bengt Forslund, is an adaptation of the novels "The Emigrants" (1949) and "Unto a Good Land" (1952) by Swedish author Vilhelm Moberg (1898-1973) which is the first two parts of his tetralogy, "The Emigrants suite" (1949-1959). It premiered in Sweden, was shot on locations in Denmark, Sweden and USA, is the first part of a two-part film which was succeeded by "The New Land" (1972) and produced by Bengt Forslund. It tells the story about Karl-Oskar Nilsson who lives on a farm in Ljuders socken, Småland, Sweden with his father, his mother and his brother Robert. When Karl-Oskar meets seventeen-year-old Kristina Johansdotter, he falls in love with her and later he marries her. Kristina gives birth to several children and they become a happy family, but as time goes by it gets harder and more challenging to run the farm, much due to the harvest. After reading an ad in a newspaper about free land in North-America, Karl-Oskar begins to consider emigrating from Sweden with his family.

Acutely and engagingly directed by Jan Troell, this period drama, set against the backdrop of Sweden during the 1840s and 1850s, draws an extensive and gripping portrayal of a group of farmers and Christians who emigrate from their homeland, a humane portrayal of a close friendship between two young farmhands and a compassionate portrayal of an evolving relationship between a farmer and is housewife. While notable for its poignant art direction by Swedish production designer P.A. Lundgren (1911-2002), the distinct cinematography by Jan Troell and the fine costume design by Swedish costume designer Ulla-Britt Söderlund (1943-1985), this character-driven and dialog-driven historic epic where the natural surroundings plays an important and symbolic part, examines themes like family relations, interpersonal relations, friendship, poverty, courage and dignity.

This Swedish production which was a big investment in Swedish cinema at the time, depicts several studies of character, has a significant atmosphere which is emphasized by the naturalistic milieu depictions and the subtle score by Swedish composer Erik Nordgren (1913-1992) and is impelled and reinforced by the empathic and involving acting performances by Swedish actors Max von Sydow, Allan Edwall (1924- 1997), Eddie Axberg and Pierre Lindstedt, Swedish actress and singer Monica Zetterlund (1937-2005) and Norwegian actress Liv Ullmann who was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress in a leading role at the 45th Academy Awards in 1973, marking her as the first Norwegian actress ever to gain an Academy Award nomination. A cautiously narrated and memorable historic drama which gained, among other awards, the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress Liv Ullmann and Best Foreign Language Film at the 30th Golden Globe Awards in 1973, the NYFCC Award for Best Actress Liv Ullmann at the New York Film Critics Circle Awards in 1973, the Jussi Award for Best Foreign Filmmaker Jan Troell at the Jussi Awards in 1972 and was nominated for five Academy Awards in 1973.
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THE Great American Film
tangoviudo31 October 2006
Even without 40 minutes of its original running time (trimmed by the idiots at Warner Brothers, who couldn't see American audiences sitting through a 3-hour film), "The Emigrants" is one of the greatest films ever made in Sweden - and probably the finest so far about the immigrant experience.

Troell's film was also the most expensive production to date (1971) in Sweden, which outraged many Swedes and made them attack the film quite unfairly. Box Office receipts worldwide, however, persuaded Hollywood that Troell was "bankable" and gave him a few shots at at fame and fortune ("Zandy's Bride" and "The Hurricane" - the latter to have been directed by Roman Polanski just prior to his banishment from America). Luckily, Troell failed in Hollywood and went back to Sweden.
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The Emigrants
jcolyer122930 August 2005
The Emigrants is a Swedish film based on the novels of Swedish author Wilhelm Moberg. It is about the emigrants who sailed from Sweden in the 1850s to come to the United States. Max von Sydow is patriarch Karl Oskar. Liv Ullmann is his faithful wife, Kristina. The film shows the unbearable conditions which existed in Sweden, the agony of the ocean voyage and the promise of a better life in Minnesota. Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus of ABBA turned the novels into a musical in the 1990s. The music is Swedish folk music. They are trying to get an English version to Broadway. The Emigrants and its 1972 sequel, The New Land, provide a wonderful learning experience.
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Seeking realism instead of entertainment.
MartinHafer24 September 2018
"Utvandrarna" ("The Emigrants") is the first of two films, the follow-up being "The New Land". Incidentally, I saw them in reverse order. Regardless, the film was extremely well thought of in the day, as it was nominated both for Best Foreign Language AND Best Picture Oscars...though it won neither. Oddly, it was nominated for 1972 (Best Foreign Language) AND 1973 (Best Picture)....and I have no idea how this happened.

"The Emigrants" is a very stark and deliberate film about a hardworking but very poor family that eventually imigrates to America. There is no music at the film's beginning and darn little music throughout. I think that and the pacing were done deliberately in order to emphasize the starkness and blandness of life in rural Sweden in 1844. You see that the folks are simple and their lives hellishly awful...and you see a lot of this awfulness and understand for many at that time period that WAS life. This makes for a wonderful historical and educational film...though NOT a cinematic or especially enjoyable one. Watch it for the quality of the acting and production and history...not because it will make you happy! So, if you are depressed...try another film instead.
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Real movie lovers MUST see this!
BoboLaTuque6 November 2018
I had this movie on VHS and transferred it to DVD. It is one of the best movies I have ever seen, and its sequel "The New Land" is equally as good. The acting, direction, cinematography... all excellent. It is a very evocative movie and seems to depict quite honestly the hardships and struggles of immigrants in the 1800s. This is one of about a dozen movies I must watch at least once per year. I love it. I would recommend this movie to dang-near anybody!
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Swedish Epic About Finding the American Dream
evanston_dad10 October 2018
Max von Sydow and Liv Ullmann play a husband and wife who decide to emigrate to America with their family and fellow villagers in the mid-19th century.

The first part of the film details the challenges these people face that make them want to emigrate in the first place. An oppressive village hierarchy in which all laws and rules of accepted behavior are arbitrated by a self-appointed few, as well as conditions that make farming a constant struggle, leave them craving the freedoms and fertility of the mythic U.S. The second part of the film is a meticulous recreation of what the actual journey was like, including a long segment about the miseries of crossing the Atlantic Ocean (including sea sickness and lice), and the interminable trek up the Mississippi River to Minnesota once they landed. It's almost impossible to wrap your head around how frightening this entire experience would have been for them. These people knew almost nothing about the world outside of their small Swedish village (one young man doesn't even know how the ocean works and thinks they're all going to drown if the water rises) and trust themselves to strangers who don't speak their language or really have any reason to look out for their interests. It's a fascinating film and feels more like a documentary than a fictional narrative.

Unfortunately, the only version I was able to see was the dubbed one shown by TCM. I would have much preferred to see it subtitled so that I could experience von Sydow's and Ullmann's performances as they were meant to be experienced.

"The Emigrants" was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 1971 Academy Awards, and then because of Oscar's weird eligibility rules popped up again a year later with four nominations, for Best Picture, Best Director (Jan Troell), Best Actress (Ullmann), and Best Adapted Screenplay. At the time, it was only the third foreign language film after "Grand Illusion" and "Z" to receive a Best Picture nomination. And the film's sequel, "The New Land," was up for Best Foreign Language Film the same year that "The Emigrants" was in the Best Picture race. Good couple of years for director Jan Troell.

Grade: A
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You can migrate from this Emigrants ***
edwagreen9 March 2015
Warning: Spoilers
For a variety of reasons-economic, social and religious force residents of a Swedish area to leave and come to America.

Liv Ullmann received a best actress nomination for the Oscar and I really don't know why. Yes, she had some good emotional outbursts at times, but she was often difficult to understand. Perhaps, she could have used some tips from Loretta Young, who gave us an authentic Swedish accent in 1947's "The Farmer's Daughter," and got an Oscar for it.

Ullmann is married to Max Von Sydow who really uses her as a baby making service. She is constantly pregnant throughout the film.

The real top acting honors in the film go to the harlot and deacon, both forced out for their religious views.

Other than lice, death and general malaise, the scenes on board never are riveting.
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Swedish filmmaker Jan Troell's categorical pièces-de-résistance
lasttimeisaw8 April 2018
Swedish filmmaker Jan Troell's categorical pièces-de-résistance, a diptych, 7-hours long saga based on his fellow countryman, the literature titan Vilhelm Moberg's THE EMIGRANTS ensemble.

Divided into THE EMIGRANTS and THE NEW LAND, this 19th-century epic holds a dear look at the travails of an ordinary Swedish household, the Nilsson family, resides in the Småland hinterland, when (mostly natural) adversity mounts against their livelihood, the eldest son Karl Oskar (von Sydow) mulls over the prospect of emigrating to the United States. A proposition deprecated by his wife Kristina (Ullmann) initially, but when poverty and hunger is aggravated by the premature death of one of their brood, she eventually accedes, joining their emigrating pack are Karl Oskar's younger brother Robert (Axberg), his farmhand friend Arvid (Lindstedt), the family of Kristina's uncle Pastor Daniel Andreasson (Edwall, a straight-up hard-hitter, brilliantly bringing about an air of smug virtuosity that treacherously verges on hubris), who is at loggerheads with the supercilious local parish clergy for preaching to the fallen ones (viz. those who are deemed not worthy of Christian gospel), among whom a former prostitute Ulrika (jazz chanteuse Monica Zetterlund), now a reborn woman, also partakes in the trek with her teenage daughter Elin (played by Monica's own daughter Eva-Lena Zetterlund).

THE EMIGRANTS itself can be bisected into two halves, before and after the family's embarkment for the state of Freedom, during the former, Troell introduces the hardship and inequity (religious parochialism and mistreatment) with a pastoral equanimity (occasionally lard with invigorating drumbeats) and purveys his main characters with sufficient impetus for their longing for a reset button in an idealized country where everyone is (purportedly) being treated equally and fairly, especially for the young Robert, it is the California gold rush beckons him, and supports him against the cavalier abuse he receives on a daily base when working as a farmhand.

Once their journey kick-starts, a looming nostalgia begins to sweep the cohort, Troell (who is also presiding over the cinematography department) fixes the valediction shot with a subdued solemnity, no goodbyes, tear-infused eyes, lingering looks are deployed, just a long-shot of the elderly parents seeing their children off in front of their house, incorporating the place into their final adieu, and the impact is ineffable.

Tellingly, THE EMIGRANTS' most accomplished passage is the ten-weeks trans-Atlantic voyage on a wooden brig, and Troell valiantly re-enacts its sordid state of affairs with swingeing maritime verisimilitude when most passengers are fallen victims of sea-sick, life is snuffed within a two-by-four space, by scurvy or even quinsy (a pertinent reference to today's illegal immigrants' ordeal on the sea). Here Liv Ullmann holds court in two magnificent scenes, one is Kristina's altercation with Ulrika, both actress are emotively unsparing, and letting out their prejudice and retorts once for all, which also presciently serves as a catalyst for their eventually best-friends transition; the other is when Kristina, apparently in extremis, exchanges with Karl Oskar their fondness, as if for the last time, by confessing that they are each other's best friends, a superlative affirmation that true love does exist thanks to the two players' most poignant delivery.

Once the survivors touches the terra firma but incognita, they are still miles away from where they will start life anew, hopping on the train and later a steamer, than on foot, when they finally reach their destination in Minnesota, their first dream is dashed by a boastful liar who never expect his lie will be debunked in his face, and THE EMIGRANTS finishes when Karl Oskar finds their new land under their new identities, American homesteaders.

Right picking up where its predecessor leaves, THE NEW LAND takes place entirely in the new land, where the Swedish emigrants forming a somewhat enclave, mostly living among themselves, which brings about a problematic issue about the story's sense of locality and Troell's inaction of alleviate this anonymity, if it is not for the random appearances of the indigenous Indians, one can safely surmise that the household is still live in their homeland, with very similar sylvan exuberance and harsh winter-time, and not much foreignness to interact with, in a way, it takes the shine off one of the story's focal points: displacement.

Yet, what THE NEW LAND excels in, is that oater flashback of Robert, who manages to stay alive just long enough after a futile gold-digging attempt with Arvid, a sounding slap in the face to the wide-eyed daydreamers, the pair is saddled with the same drudgery and hardship (not to mention Robert's potluck is rooked by deception) that ultimate will cost them both their young lives, here Troell launches a more hallucinogenic experiment in accentuating the pair's delirium and exhaustion when wandering in the desert, to admirable effect. Eddie Axberg has weathered convincingly in honing up Robert's tale of woe, and his final resignation with fate effectually brings a lump in one's throat.

Life goes on, as Karl Oskar's household finally prospers, a God-fearing Kristina turns out to be benighted enough to risk her own life for the sake of procreation, indoctrinated as a wife's sacrosanct duty, even after receiving the doctor's warning that another pregnancy would become her undoing, together with a less disinterested depiction of a wanton slaughter during the Sioux Uprising, by suggestion that it is at the expense of those white homesteaders' hospitality upon which the Indians conducts their retaliation, THE NEW LAND's luster starts to ebb away, notwithstanding a show-stopping Max von Sydow consistently radiates with plebeian bonhomie, sympathy and mettle from stem to stern of the entire roman-fleuve.
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The Emigrants
Red-12531 January 2018
Utvandrarna and Nybyggarna The Swedish film Utvandrarna was shown in the U.S. with the title The Emigrants (1971). The film Nybyggarna was shown with the title The New Land (1972). Both movies were co-written and directed by Jan Troell. Troell was also the cinematographer and the editor of both. (Sounds crazy, but he did it.) The films are actually one long film, broken in half so that each could be seen separately. As can be guessed from the titles, the first film sets up the plot by showing us that, despite intelligence and hard work, many families couldn't make a living on the small plots of land in Sweden. The second film follows the family from Sweden to the United States. The situation for them in the U.S. isn't that much better when they arrive, but they have reasonable hope that they will succeed. Max von Sydow plays the husband, Karl Oskar, and Liv Ullmann plays his wife, Kristina. Both are extraordinarily talented. In addition, Von Sydow is handsome, and Ullmann is impossibly beautiful. The remainder of the cast is strong, and the acting by the children is wonderful. These movies will work better on the large screen, but we had to settle for the small screen. Both films carry very high IMDb rating of 8.0. I gave each a 10.
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