A Swedish family struggles to emigrate to
America during a time of great personal tragedy.
The Emigrants (1971)
Directed by Jan Troell
Written by Bengt Forslund and Jan Troell
Starring Max von Sydow, Liv Ullmann, Eddie Axberg,
Sven-Olof Bern, Aina Alfredsson, Allan Edwall, Monica Zetterlund
Based on the novels The Emigrants and Unto a Good Land
by Vilhelm Moburg
Oscar Nominations - Best Picture, Best Foreign Film, Best Director, Best Actress (Liv Ullmann), Best Adapted Screenplay
Very few films have the ability to be continually engaging with a runtime that exceeds three hours. Most films that go that long tend to have an air of self-indulgence about them, and The Emigrants is no exception. Jan Troell adopted two novels into one movie about a Swedish family making the difficult decision to emigrate to America during the 19th century. The first hour is them in Sweden on their farm making that decision. The second hour is the ocean journey to America. The third hour is the last leg to their destination, Minnesota. None of it feels engaging apart from brief moments here and there. Overall, it's an incredibly dull slog through a director's vision that I could not get onboard with.
We follow Karl (von Sydow) and his wife Kristina (Ullmann) as they farm an unyielding crop of land in Sweden. Their daughter dies from a stomach ailment, driving home the idea to go to America. Getting there is rough, and Troell doesn't sugarcoat the immigrant experience. It's dirty, bug-infested, jam-packed, and full of death. This was pretty much the only engaging segment of the film, as it feels fairly real. Once we get to America, the film continues. There is a solid moment of panic when their daughter disappears, only to be discovered by a lady they hate who then is accepted by them.
There's not a lot to talk about, as most of the film is comprised of shots of farming, and I can only take so much of that before I go completely insane. Max von Sydow and Liv Ullmann turn in solid performances, but the film is so amazingly boring that it's a wonder it ever ended up in the same Academy Award conversation as The Godfather and Cabaret.