Sweet Land (2005) Poster


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Touching story of life in America's heartland of the 1920's.
takng19 July 2005
Sweet Land touched my heart. My roots are from the same farming background as Olaf and Inge's. Seeing them brought back stories and memories of my own growing up and family history. It slowed down the pace for just a little while and brought back into focus what should really matter in life--and that is the people you journey though it with. The story is simple and yet it is far deeper and more touching than most movies that hit the screen today. It is a story of hardship and the joy and pride that come from hard work. It is a love story and a story of strength. And it is a story with humor and valuable lessons that I believe America's heartland was raised on. It also shares a mindset of a time gone by, an understanding of why our grandparents and parents thought as they did and believed the things they believed. When we know and understand the past, it helps shape and lead us to the future. I appreciate the time and energy that went into the making of this film. It is a treasure.
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wonderful movie
jjwriter430 April 2006
This is the story of a German mail order bride who moves to a small, Minnesota town filled with Norwegians who don't exactly embrace difference.

The movie creates a palatable tension between doing what you need to do to fit in with your community (what you're "supposed" to do) and finding love with someone who is different (what you should do).

That message resonates in today's political climate.

A funny, poignant, wonderfully acted movie, Sweet Land has the confidence to treat us as if we are intelligent. It lets us fill in the blanks and trusts us to understand what's going on without telling us everything. While this makes us work a little rather than sit back and be spoon fed the entertainment, the effort is well worth it.

For example, when characters speak German, instead of using subtitles, the filmmakers know we'll get the gist of the scene - even though we don't get the exact verbiage. Selim lets the emotion carry us and it works. This is delicate work but it's handled with care and talent.

Sweet Land is about how love is stronger than fear.

Very, very good movie...the kind they don't make in Hollywood. I'd compare it to Jean de Florette and the sequel Manon of the Spring. It's a simple story with complex emotions where the smallest details, like someone taking a huge bite of potatoes, say a lot.

Excellent movie.
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gorgeous landscape portrait love story
martin-93325 October 2005
As a total movie addict, I was very surprised after attending a screening of this film to be so overwhelmed by the quality of the photography and the depth of the acting.

The visual images in this film are simple, yet breathtakingly beautiful in their composition. It is a rare masterpiece with amazing use of time, depth and perspective. The development of the romantic tension between the main characters in the love story was so powerful and yet so subtle, that it was like a fresh breath mint on a cold January morning.

The used of time and flashbacks is amazing, and the editing and pace of the movie is very accomplished for an independent, low budget film. I will not be surprised if I hear about this move at Oscar time.
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A lovely film which deserves to be widely seen
lwalsh23 December 2006
'Sweet Land' manages a difficult feat: it is a historical film with a clear message for the present, yet it avoids becoming either nostalgically cloying or preachily shrill. "Banking and farming don't mix" is not merely a phrase heard several times; it is the key to the confrontation of two utterly different, and utterly irreconcilable, attitudes toward land and life. Ned Beatty, as the chief banker, embodies the one, driven by money and power, harshly and repellently (it's a superb performance), but he and his few allies, and what they stand for, cannot completely overwhelm what most of the other characters, major and minor, believe in and represent: the importance of human connections, with each other and with the jobs they must carry out.

There is scarcely a false step in this film. Elizabeth Reaser brings Inge to life completely believably and very poignantly. We truly care about this woman, a fact made all the more astonishing when we realize that for a sizable part of the film she speaks in languages most of the American audience will not understand. It's one of the best performances I've seen in a long time. Similarly convincing is Tim Guinee as Olaf, her perplexed husband-to-be. His struggles to overcome prejudice (his own and that of his neighbors) are played with a delightful mix of humor, pathos, and inner strength which mirror the complex set of forces with which he must deal. Much the same could be said, albeit on a smaller scale, of the lesser parts; these performers inhabit these roles as if they had already lived them for real. Watch the interactions between Alan Cumming and Alex Kingston, for example; these are two people who are deeply and genuinely in love, but who recognize and accept the flaws of the other. There is no conventional 'happy marriage' insipidity here-- with the result that their marriage comes across as truly happy in a far more profound manner than so many others on screen.

Visually the film is often lovely. It is not as lusciously filmed as Terrence Malick's 'Days of Heaven', with which it shares an underlying approach, but it also avoids the occasional glossiness which undercut the down-to-earth elements of the earlier film's plot. Here the images rarely feel forced, and never overwhelm the intense sense of physical presence so vital to both plot and message. Also powerful is the use of two framing stories, linked to but not dependent upon the central plot. Indeed, the emotional climax of the film actually resides in the contemporary story, something we will not realize until almost the very end of the film. What seems a mere narrative trick suddenly resonates with tremendous power, and brings home the film's central theme beautifully yet without undue emphasis.

The flaws are few. The music, usually vaguely folksy without being especially engaging, is more than once rather too modern in its feel and too diffuse in its impact to support the visuals. The music is the weakest element in the film; at times it sounds almost as if the decision to add music was taken so late in production that all that was possible was some improvisational doodling, which fits neither the delicately shaped mood nor the careful pacing and structuring of the action. The important part of Minister Sorrensen is a bit awkwardly written, with his changes of outlook being rather too sudden; John Heard's performance, though thoughtful, could likewise be more nuanced (he was probably responding to the part as written, but in this case he would have been better off to play against the script).

'Sweet Land' is a beautiful, funny, and often very moving film, with a deep and respectful sense of history and human relations. Both the action and the thoughts it provokes will linger long after the curtain closes. The film has much to offer, and I recommend it very highly.
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a lyrical beautifully filmed story
nussgalles10 October 2006
i knew nothing about it before i saw sweet land at a film "class" preview. what a wonderful surprise. it is slow, thoughtful, with frames that are like beautiful photographs. the director gets more across with silence and facial expressions than most dialogue does. the actors are unique individuals - each performance a gem. and, the story is touching - the decent salt of the earth assimilated farmers who feel threatened by "other" outsiders. the two main characters beautifully portrayed as they work side by side and get to know each other. unique heartland music that respects the acting and dialogue and enhances without taking over at all. i highly recommend this for filmgoers who want to be touched and immersed. kudos to ali selim and fine company.
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A rural farm community in Minnesota deals with one of it's resident's new postal bride from Germany post World War I
annag025 December 2005
I was also able to view this beautiful film at a pre-screening in Northfield through St. Olaf and Carleton Colleges. I cannot praise this film enough. I am so excited to have Ali make more films and so anxious for this film to be released in theaters so that everyone may enjoy it. I also stayed after the film for a Q&A with Ali (the director) and it was really interesting to hear him speak about the film. Fantastic film, gorgeous filming, heartfelt story. Tears rolled down my face at the end; extremely touching film. I think people of all ages will appreciate this film. The director comes from commercial work and advertising so his transition to film was interesting to hear about, but it seemed to be extremely successful! I can't say enough about Sweet Land!
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Wonderfully nostalgic, funny, sad, ironic tale of immigrant farmers in Minnesota
roland-10427 December 2006
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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Excellent film from a new talent in Hollywood, Hurray!
jmadams0078 March 2005
This film is marvelous, I was able to have a sneak peak as a student here at the U of M because my teacher (Tom Pope) actually aided in the screenplay of this wonderful debut. Avoiding all the clichés of a typical Hollywood romance, this one doesn't go strait for the tear ducts but if it doesn't warm those puppies up by the end than you're a heartless person. Excellent cast, story and directing, I cannot wait till this is out there for the public. There was a Q&A afterward with the director (Ali) and the producers, and it was so interesting to hear and see their processes in their own words, wonderful men who deserve all the success in the world with this film, a great movie for all ages, truly original and moving.
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First Class Feature Film
mikekim-21 November 2005
I attended the screening of Sweet Land in Montevideo on October 26. Originally scheduled for 2 shows each on 2 nights, the response was so overwhelming more shows were added.Sweet Land turned out to be a great love story that people of all ages can enjoy. I know I enjoyed it tremendously.. Spectacular acting producing and directing. Breathtaking rural Minnesota scenery. A stellar cast that features relative newcomers to experienced performers. I would love to tell you more but it would explain too much of the plot. With that all I can say is you will enjoy a great down to earth movie.. Truly a great job Ali, and all that were involved in the project. I cannot wait to see it again and look forward to when it hits the big screens across the country.
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Warm, thoughtful film - just the way movies should be.
KRockefe29 November 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Had the chance to see this film last night at a special sneak peek in Irvine, CA. What a wonderful, warm, soulful film. If you're looking for car crashes, explosions, being hit over the head, this is NOT the film for you! However, if you want to fall in love with a movie that is thoughtful, reveals its story slowly, is honest and authentic in it's depiction of two people truly falling in love, among lush photography, then run, don't walk to the theatre when it plays in your community. The film traces the life of a mail order bride who arrives in a new land with hopes for a new life - an era that is true to the spirit of all those who came to this country at the turn of the 20th century. Acting is top-notch - particularly in the use of silence. This is a quiet film - it builds moment upon moment until you find yourself at the end memorized and joyful. This film has lingered with me all the following day as I re-play scenes in my head. Score is a pitch-perfect compliment. This is not a film to be missed. I can't wait to see it again.
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Outstanding story telling, without crutches like special effects.
kch-924 May 2006
Like the previous reviewer, my roots are also of similar farming background. This film reminds us that many current issues - such as immigration and prejudice - are not so new. It also provides great insight into the challenges and obstacles faced (and overcome) by previous generations, in settling the land and creating so much we now take for granted. The cinematography and presentation techniques remind me of great films from the past, when telling a great story was top priority, instead of fire-hosing the audience with special effects and technical tricks. I absolutely agree with the previous reviewer - this film is a treasure, and worth seeing many times.
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Not So Sweet Land at Times
Hitchcoc9 November 2010
Welcome to the land of Garrison Keillor. This is a very subtle and beautiful film about a topic that my mother would have been extremely aware of. Being of German descent (a family that began farming in the late 1800's), she and her brothers put up with a lot during the war. They had to make the decision at that point to not speak German, even among themselves. While they weren't put to the test as much (since their community was mostly German), it was always an issue. I think what makes this film is that there is little like it in the film world. The people at those Lutheran, soft-spoken, men-of-few- words farmers who go about their business, trying to stay ahead of the bank. The specter of socialism scares the banker because he can divide and conquer and take the land away from them without much effort. There's a lot of the same fear going on these days and people are awfully forgetful about what brought us here and awfully trusting of the potentially oppressive financiers. This film is so quiet and yet has such an edge to it. It's about true love and trust and how we pass our heritage on to others.

I will add a totally irrelevant note. I had the pleasure of actually working in theatre with two of the minor characters during my college days in the 70's. Also, some fine work by Guthrie Theatre alums. See this film. You won't be disappointed.
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Well-intentioned Immigrant Saga fails to reach Art House Grandeur
Turfseer11 September 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Here's a film that aspires to be included in the ranks of European Art Films but unfortunately doesn't quite make the grade. Before we flashback to the main story, we're treated to two "flash forward" scenes: one set in the 60s when the main character, Inge, buries her husband and another scene twenty or so years later when the grandson buries Inge. Instead of getting right into the story which is set in 1920s Minnestoa, we're treated to quite a bit of slow-paced, unnecessary exposition. When we finally do get to the core of the story, where Inge (well played by Elizabeth Reaser) comes to America, we find out little about the personalities of the characters.

Most of the first half of the movie deals with Inge trying to cope with a hostile community where she barely speaks any English (it's not really explained very clearly, but Inge is a mail-order bride from Norway but she's actually German who's been living in Norway). Her husband-to-be Olaf, is a Norwegian-American who is unable to communicate with her in German (it appears that he can speak Norwegian and so can she--well at least I thought I heard her speak some Norwegian during the film) but they choose not to because the town minister insists that she only speak English. So quite unconvincingly, when they are alone, they never converse in Norwegian which would probably help her to learn English a lot faster.

Reaser does a good job at showing how difficult it is learning a new language and there are some scenes that are fairly compelling as Inge and her hard-working farmer-husband learn to love each other. But beyond that what do we find out about the characters in this film? Well there's Olaf, who's a bit of a Stoic but also a real good guy who saves his best friend's farm by bidding for it at an auction (even though he doesn't have the money!). And of course there's the minister, who is caught up in the anti-German hysteria of the day and gives Inge a real hard time. But of course, he's really not such a bad guy after all because eventually he inexplicably comes to accept her. And in fact, all the neighbors, who at first appear as though they're going to start a witch-hunt against Olaf and his potential bride, suddenly have a change of heart and actually give Olaf the cash to buy his best friend's farm which prevents the family from being evicted.

1920 Minnesota doesn't prove to be much of a bad place after all--not a bad apple amongst the suspicious neighbors who all turn out to collectively have hearts of gold. It's comfortable like a Hallmark Greeting Card but does not bode well for good drama which needs more of a sinister protagonist to keep things interesting. As we step back into 1920, we feel the author only has a superficial sense of what it was like to live back in that time. Oh yes, there's a nice attempt to recreate the look of the period with the old Model-T cars and gramophones but without in-depth characters, the film ultimately proves to be an exercise in sentimental storytelling.
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Sweet Movie, Indeed
Galina7 February 2008
Simple and beautiful love story Sweet Land (2005) had won its creator Ali Selim Independent Spirit Award for Best First Feature. In the film, love triumphs over ignorance, prejudice, social hardships, and the other obstacles, not the last one, the difference in cultures and languages. German immigrant Inge (Lois Smith, a wonderful but rarely seen in the movies stage and TV actress) tells her life story to her grandson after burying her husband of 48 years on their farm in Minnesota in 1968. The story begins in 1920, when Inge (Elizabeth Reaser as Young Inge) just arrived to Minnesota as a mail-order bride to Norwegian-American farmer Olaf (Tim Guinee). Discovering that Inge is actually German, the community and its spiritual leader Minister Sorrensen refused to accept Inge as Olaf's wife echoing the anti-German propaganda in the country after WWI. The touching tale of a young couple's falling in love, longing for each other, wishing to live and work together on the land till death do them part, and finally making the community accept their love, is beautifully shot and moves in a quiet thoughtful way where every small detail matters. Elizabeth Reaser as young Inge is radiant and it is hard to take your eyes off her face and smile. Her Inge is strong, intelligent, beautiful, and funny. Indeed, sweet movie.
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A fine film
KM_3912 June 2007
Here's a great example of what an independent film should be - a simple story about real people and the joys, trials, and tribulations they face on their journey through life. Alan Cumming is brilliant as the carefree head of a huge immigrant family. Tim Guinee's understated portrayal of a shy man fighting the system and his own society is at the heart of this movie's appeal. And Elizabeth Reaser is just incredible in her role as the "mail order bride" from Germany. The way the two would-be lovers find their way to each other's hearts parallels the way they work together to find acceptance in the community. A great script, superb performances, and beautiful scenery make for a truly charming piece of work.
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Great Movie
filmic1122319 March 2007
This movie was A-W-E-S-O-M-E. It was brilliantly executed, well acted and perfectly paced. If I had to muster one complaint I would say that there were a few spots where the music telegraphed a little too much of what we were supposed to be feeling. Aside from that it was just wonderful.

Set soon after World War 1, in a time when we knew the difference between good and bad, still had real heroes, played Baseball and believed that tomorrow would be better than today, the movie is a phenomenal commentary on what it is to be an American. It tells a story of "simple farmers with honest dreams" who are struggling to become English speaking Americans as small town mores and governmental paranoia work to keep them apart. It has a kind of "Days of Heaven" vibe, but I actually liked this more than Malick's film. The light and photography are great (nice to see someone using film again!) and a lot of the frames are composed like paintings - the spirit of American Gothic is evoked more than once.

The lead actress, Elizabeth Reaser is great - she wears her entire inner-life on her face and communicates the whole of her emotional spectrum with a look, a nod or a raised the eyebrow without ever going over the top or getting overly-sentimental.

But perhaps the film's greatest strength is the fact that the filmmakers never stooped to sacrifice their character's humanity to make a political point. Yes, the message of this film is timely but often times with material like this, filmmakers have a horrible tendency to impose their will on the characters and either get condescending or put words in their mouths. It was wonderful that all involved here trusted the material enough to not do that.

This film deserves more a lot recognition than it's getting. It's a damn shame.
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If only she spoke German....
Albrecht Gaub5 March 2007
This would be a perfect movie if only Elizabeth Reaser really spoke German--in the movie, I mean. There are passages in the movie that are supposed to be in German. I am not strictly sure what dialect was spoken in the city of Osnabrück before 1920 but whatever is was, as a native speaker of German I should have been able to understand most of it. I did not. There is no coherent speech in German. Every now and then Inge utters a recognizable word but with a heavy accent betraying the foreign speaker. As to the scene where Inge yells at the two men, her utterances even sounded Norwegian to me. In turn, Inge's English has some accent but again it is not a German accent. Throughout the movie it is obvious that she knows English but it completely ignorant of German. The opposite should have been the case to make the character credible. It would have been so simple to bring in a German actress to play the part but... well, this is America, who cares?
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Meditative, passionate romance is one of year's best films Warning: Spoilers
Here's a little gem of a romance about two European immigrants trying to make a life together in a small farming community. Set in 1920, "Sweet Land" is a gentle, meditative, and disarmingly sexy look at love deferred. Due to some complications that I won't spoil here, recent émigré Inge (Elizabeth Reaser) cannot go through with her arranged marriage to Olaf (Tim Guinee), a farmer seeking a helper and companion.

Olaf is aloof and possesses a strong desire to become more American, avoiding the use of his foreign tongue. He is visibly embarrassed by Inge who is clearly alien in her language and attire. Inge, a German, is also feared by much of the town who have a lingering anxiety toward Deutschland. She does, however, find kindness in the home of hapless farmer Frandsen (Alan Cumming) and his wife Brownie (Alex Kingston).

It will be no surprise to viewers that the two begin to warm to one another, but how they get there will be. Olaf is almost immediately attracted to the beautiful and kind Inge, but it takes time for him to fall in love. Their consummation is deferred, but it is during this time that the two begin to admire and then fall for one another. The final moments before their consummation--occurring off-screen--are the most passionate filmed moments of the year.

The cast is uniformly excellent, including John Heard as a rigid pastor and Ned Beatty as an unforgiving banker. The performances by Reaser and Guinee are kind and assured. Reaser as Inge delivers a particularly strong performance. Through much of the movie we cannot understand what Inge is saying--she barely speaks English--but Reaser expertly conveys exactly what Inge is feeling. These relatively unknown actors will stun you and completely win you over by film's end.

"Sweet Land" is one of the year's best film's.
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A labor of (yawn) love
dinky-418 October 2006
Yes, it's earnest, well-intentioned, and graced by talented people both in front of and behind the camera, and yes, it's the sort of movie that film festival audiences react to with gushes of praise, but the truth is, this obvious labor of love is glacially paced, awkwardly constructed, and excruciatingly dull. "Narrative drive" is clearly of minor concern during these proceedings. There are some pleasing images, the cast is attractive and well chosen, and one can't help but give it points for being a worthy effort, but overall "Sweet Land" can best be categorized as a "noble failure." (Note the electric light-switch by the door in a scene with Ned Beatty. If the house has electricity, why is everyone using kerosene lamps?)
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A real Bore
buzzbruin21 July 2007
How could anyone watching this movie not be bored out of their gourd? SLOW> SLOWER SLOWEST!!! First of all, NO-ONE in this movie seemed like a country farm person-- The lead Reaser looked as made up as a Hollywood starlet--if she is a farm bride of the 1920s I am the King of Scotland. My wifes great grandmother was a rural person in 1920--NO lipstick, a little face powder, not red lips. Do any of these people sweat or get dirty? Do you understand how HOT it is in Minnesota during the summer and harvest time?? Does any of you understand FARM LIFE in 1920?? This netflix FAILED my basic test I didn't give a darn (or R-A) about anyone in this movie. The minister looked like he shaved and changed his collar hourly. This movie, except for the constant shots of the house and BIG SKY looked like a sound-stage movie of the 50s. Alan cumming was horribly miscast. This movie seemed 12 hours long. Besides a poor cast the writing was horrible. We have no understanding Of olaf, where he came from, his family etc. How ANYBODY could hype this movie is beyond me. Caveat--I am NOT a film sudent so I don't automatically like every effort.
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A film for anyone who can appreciate the beauty in good storytelling
kokocookie7 November 2006
"Sweet" is the best way to describe this film, "genuinely sweet" at that. Without a doubt this is one of the most moving films I have ever seen. First time director Ali Selim does exactly what Hollywood can't: tell an authentic love story. "Sweet Land" contains no explosions, no sex, no three-minute kisses, however this little indie successfully tells the most complete, sweet love story in quite a while. Elizabeth Reaser and Tim Guinee display immaculate performances that are most definitely "statue worthy." The two leads explain the complexities and tribulations of love through their eyes not through clunky, imaginary dialogue like many production films. Alan Cumming and Ned Beatty turn in arguably the performances of their careers as the fabulously cumbersome neighbor and the villainous banker. Alex Kingston and Lois Smith show that they too, can be remarkably authentic with a good script. John Heard fits his multifaceted role as the town minister perfectly. Lastly, exceptional Broadway actor and first time "filmer" Patrick Huesinger tops off the impeccable cast in his intricate role of the Lars. Cinematographer Dave Tumblety brings out the beauty and splendor of western Minnesota with breathtaking, and cinematically beautiful shots. Jim Stanger makes it all work superbly while perfectly editing this non-linear story through three generations. This film has picked up a surprising amount of buzz around town making me speculate this year's independent sensation may come from the little town of Montevideo, Minnesota. "Sweet Land" isn't just for couples and divorced middle-aged moms who still believe they will find true love, rather it is an elaborate family saga I strongly recommend to any person who ever appreciated the art of a good story. See this film, you won't regret it.
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Sweet Land
shelykely224 October 2006
I just saw a wonderful movie called "Sweet Land" and I'm still a bit teary and wistful from the whole experience. From the emotion evoking thoughts at the very beginning of the movie until the very end, your heart is touched by the imagery and lovely, gentle characterizations. This is a sweet love story that faces the frustrations dealt with by immigrants throughout the history of our country. This tender tale is bound to touch the hearts of the young and old alike. It's a refreshing story of the development of a loving relationship: a true romance. It is also the story of love for family and friends and how love can carry on from generation to generation.

Technically it is a joy to experience. Please, see this on the big screen if you get the chance. The cinematography was breathtaking, costuming fit each character very well, makeup was pleasantly simple, (didn't look like they were trying too hard to make them look without), the sound was nicely balanced, complimentary score, good use of natural light, lights and shadows, believable props, and all this set in the perfect location.

Lovely and touching; a film experience you will remember – at least a 5 tissue movie. I highly recommend!

And – Thank you to everyone who was involved with this project. Bravo!
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real life can be beautiful
swensond-126 August 2007
This is story of a non-English-speaking German bride who arrives to rural Minnesota without ever having seen her Norwegian husband-to-be. The story rings true. My own grandparents grew up on farms in Minnesota and my own grandmother endured some prejudice as the only Norwegian in a Swedish family. This is the real Lake Woebegon, without the disdain. The humor is authentic. The photography is first-rate, the acting and direction are also excellent. Most people, I suppose, will find it too slow. But what a refreshing offering from Hollywood: real people, real character (voluntary celibacy!), real drama, authentic sacrifice, a church that isn't just a Christian-bashing caricature, real romance (without the soap-opera dialog!!!)

Gawd I hope this film makes money!
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One of the Finest Films of the Immigrant Experience Ever Made!
gradyharp23 December 2006
Ali Selim is a gifted artist and one that surely will continue to create magical films such as his masterpiece SWEET LAND in the coming years. Selim wrote the screenplay based on Will Weaver's perfect little short story 'A Gravestone Made of Wheat', found the perfect setting for his tale of the trials of immigrants entering America searching for the American Dream in the spacious grandeur of Nebraska, and selected a cast to bring life to his story that simply could not be better. This film MUST be considered among the best at the time of awards.

Though the time of the story is 1920, the film opens much later in slow motion, only soft music comes from the soundtrack, yet the actors are mouthing words that make us realize we are witnessing the passing of someone important. When the characters begin to speak, the story of remembering what love and trials and experiences years ago were like, transporting us to a station house where we meet Inge (Elizabeth Reaser), a Norwegian/German girl who has come to America to marry a man she has never met, a man who will provide her with home, marriage, and a chance to start afresh. Her 'intended' is Olaf (Tim Guinee) who is shy and unsure of how to make Inge a part of his life: Inge's German background makes her suspect to the townsfolk who fear the course of Germany's power in WW I. Inge speaks no English but has been learning through a common phrase book. Olaf's friend Frandsen (a brilliant role for Alan Cumming), married to Brownie (Alex Kingston) with at least eight children already, helps Inge connect with Olaf. The intended marriage cannot take place with the minister (John Heard) because Inge can't speak English and because she is German... And there begins the trial that places Inge and Olaf in a home unmarried and fending for themselves.

Through extraordinary acts of love bestowed upon Frandsen and Brownie (threatened with eviction from their farm) Inge and Olaf gain the respect of the townspeople and gradually are appreciated for the strong couple they are. They are married, and have children, and the story proceeds to the point where it started, where the aged Inge (now played with humility, grace and style by Lois Williams) carries on the integrity of the departed Olaf and brings closure to her family's disparities through her bonding to her son Lars (Patrick Heusinger and later Stephen Pelinski). Both Inge and Olaf wished to be buried in the soil of their land that raised the wheat that gave them material and spiritual sustenance. And it is done.

There are numerous fine cameo roles portrayed by Ned Beatty, Paul Sand, Jodie Markell, Sage Kermes, Kirsten Frantzich, Stephen Yoakam, and Karen Landry. But the equal 'stars' of this breathtaking (and heart-taking) film are cinematographer David Tumblety and musical scoring by Thomas Lieberman and Mark Orton. The end credits are screen on the horizon of the farm with the young Inge and Olaf dancing, a touch that places Ali Selim in the ranks with the finest of filmmakers of the day. This is a brilliant, must-see film. Grady Harp, December 06
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A Film Truly for Adults
rangeriderr7 December 2010
This film is most absorbing, but you have to be willing to watch a film that unfolds slowly. It is magnificently acted with two young actors -- Elizabeth Reaser and Tim Guinee as the leads. There is relatively little dialogue, and much of it is in German or Norwegian with no subtitles, which conveys to the audience the difficulty that they have communicating with each other.

The two leads are heavily dependent upon the expressiveness of their eyes, which they do with great delicacy. The film is well-paced and beautifully photographed. The only difficulty I had was catching on that the action took place in three time periods, not just two. You had 1920 when Inge, a mail order bride comes to rural Minnesota. (The scenery looked authentic, and since some of the credits are for institutions in Montevideo, MN, a town to which I once traveled, I can understand the veracity of the setting.)

The second time period, which is not so clear, is when Olaf, Inge's husband has passed away, and the third time period is more or less the present when Inge's grandson is faced with a decision of whether or not to sell the farm. There are some visual clues to separate the second and third time periods, but they are quite subtle.

The second is probably around 1960, marked by the glasses frames that Inge, as an old woman is wearing; and the third, by a jacket that her great-granddaughter is wearing. Otherwise, the time differences are not totally clear, particularly at the beginning of the film, where you have flashbacks.

The film struck me with its apparent accuracy. Twenty years ago, I knew an elderly Norwegian immigrant who had been the wife of a North Dakota farmer, and she had told me stories of farm life in the 1920s and 1930s. It required about 15 people to operate a steam threshing machine, and she told me about preparing lunch each day during the harvest season for 20 men; and about reading by candlelight at night; using an indoor pump at the sink; and seeking to keep warm during the brutal North Dakota winters.

I visited the woman and her daughters and grand-daughter in her modern apartment which was a far cry from life during her youth. It blows me away to think about the change in this one woman's singular life from her youth to her later years -- greater changes than in any prior period in history. (In 1946, there were still more horse drawn tractors than mechanized ones in use in the U.S., and there wasn't much electricity in rural areas until the New Deal.)

Although I may have missed some, I perceived no wrong notes in the film which added to the enjoyment of watching it. A most charming film from beginning to end.
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