The continuing saga of the Nilssons - husband and wife Karl-Oskar and Kristina, their several young children with another on the way, Karl-Oskar's younger brother Robert, and some of their extended family members such as Kristina's Uncle Danjel - and several of their Swedish compatriots is presented. This phase of their story begins where their saga in The Emigrants (1971) left off, in the fall of 1850, having just arrived in Minnesota from their native Sweden to begin what they hope will be a better life. They left Sweden because of the harsh and worsening conditions of their farm life, and chose Minnesota based on the stories of many of their Swedish friends who emigrated there before them. While Karl-Oskar goes through the process of setting up their homestead, eighteen year old Robert already has bigger dreams of striking it big in the California gold rush, something he is reluctant to tell Karl-Oskar until he is ready to leave if only having been under Karl-Oskar's guardianship ...Written by
"The New Land" finishes the story begun in Jan Troell's "The Emigrants," which was released the year before. It's a longer and bleaker film. "The Emigrants" was harsh, but at least in that film the people making the arduous journey to America had the promise of all that America had to offer (or at least what they thought it had to offer) to get them through the tribulations. But in "The New Land," they've settled into that life, and their new home proves not to be the utopia they dreamed.
It's astonishing how authentic these films feel, and it's hard to remember while watching them that they were made in the early 1970s. "The New Land" has some really difficult passages to watch, namely one involving the murder of a settler family at the hands of a gang of Native Americans -- including the horrific death of a baby -- and another an extended segment that details the nightmarish fever dream of a journey two of the settlers take to mine for gold in California. This story line started to feel long to me, and in a film that clocks in at nearly three and a half hours I wouldn't have minded this one being left on the cutting room floor. But it doesn't mar the overall brilliance of this film as a stand alone story, or the entire two-film saga.
And unlike "The Emigrants," which I only found in a dubbed version, "The New Land" is subtitled in English, which makes for a much more pleasant viewing experience.
"The New Land" was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 1972 Academy Awards, in the same year that "The Emigrants" was nominated in four categories, including Best Picture.
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