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Sweet Land (2006)

© 2007 Libero, LLC

 

 

Reviewed by Doug Boilesen

This movie is in my top ten, not just because of its phonograph scenes but for its finely-crafted love-story and its evocative picture of early twentieth-century America and the immigrant experience.

 

As someone whose grandparents homesteaded in Nebraska it resonates. It also makes me hungry for a nice piece of pie.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The following are the synopsis and reviews from the official movie website:

 

Synopsis:

Winner of the Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature at the 2005 Hamptons International Film Festival, Sweet Land is a poignant and lyrical celebration of land, love, and the American immigrant experience. When Lars Torvik's grandmother Inge dies in 2004, he is faced with a decision- sell the family farm on which she lived since 1920, or cling to the legacy of the land. Seeking advice, he turns to the memory of Inge and the stories that she had passed on to him. Inge arrives in Minnesota in 1920 to marry a young Norwegian farmer named Olaf. Her German heritage and lack of official immigration papers makes her an object of suspicion in the small town, and she and Olaf are forbidden to marry. Alone and adrift, Inge goes to live with the family of Olaf's friend and neighbor Frandsen and his wife Brownie, where she learns the English language, American ways, and a hard-won independence. Inge and Olaf slowly come to know each other, and against the backdrop of endless farmland and cathedral skies they fall in love, a man and woman united by the elemental forces of nature. Still unable to marry, they live together openly, despite the scorn of the neighbors and the disapproval of the local minister. But when his friend Frandsen's farm is threatened by foreclosure, Olaf takes a stand, and the community unites around the young couple, finally accepting Inge as one of their own. Based on Will Weaver's short story A Gravestone Made of Wheat and shot on location in Southern Minnesota, Sweet Land is that rare independent feature that uses painterly images and understated performances to tell a universal story of love and discovery. David Tumblety's glorious magic-hour cinematography recalls classic American art cinema like Days of Heaven, transforming the amber majesty of Southern Minnesota's farm country into an elegiac metaphor for memory, family, and history. Featuring supporting performances by veteran performers Ned Beatty, Paul Sand, and Lois Smith, Sweet Land is the story of immigrant America, made by the son of first-generation immigrants themselves.

“A visually indelible movie that’s a grand dream of the American past. Sweet Land is a movie of extraordinary tenderness.” –Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly

“A gorgeously realized romance.” –Rob Nelson, Village Voice

“Sweet Land celebrates a gutsy, old-fashioned sort of love, which Mr. Selim lovingly presents in scene after scene of glorious 35-millimeter images.” –Jeannette Catsoulis, The New York Times

“Richly detailed visuals, evocative writing, and an intense performance by Elizabeth Reaser.” –Gene Seymour, New York Newsday

“A gentle, heart-warming, almost fairytale-like love saga.” –Jennifer Merin, New York Press “**** (Highest Rating)!

A beautifully shot, sweetly crafted, finely acted film. Elizabeth Reaser is breathtakingly spot-on. Tim Guinee is wonderfully understated.” –Clint O’Connor, Cleveland Plain Dealer

“***** (Highest Rating)! A lyrical prairie love story. Terrific acting and a simple, aching courtship. Good movies don’t need to have edge. ‘The edge’ moves, from day to day. The heart is constant. Touch that and you’ve done something.” –Roger Moore, Orlando Sentinel

“A small, nearly perfect gem of a movie...don’t miss it.” –Chris Hewitt, St. Paul Pioneer-Press

“Seductively sweet...a compelling picture of the American immigrant experience. Elizabeth Reaser is luminous” –Raven Snook, Time Out New York

“Demonstrating a mastery of the medium, writer-director Selim has crafted a tale of pure Americana that speaks both to the immigrant experience and the nature of love. Reaser breathes fire into (her) character.” –Kirk Honeycutt, The Hollywood Reporter “*** ½*.

An intelligently told story, undeniably sweet.” –Jeff Strickler, Minneapolis Star-Tribune

“Sweet Land is brave and touchingly executed cinematic storytelling that explores the lives of these immigrants with extraordinary insight.” –Prairie Miller, WBAI Arts Magazine