'Sweet Land' is a well paced, well told, heart lifting movie, with some of the best lines, acting and cinematography a person could ever ask for. It well portrays the struggles and humors of rural working life.
This movie won major points with me right out the gate, when I saw Lois Smith's sweet motherly face. She is one of my favorite actresses and I like to pay attention to the things she's in.
For those needing a jog; Lois Smith played the warm and welcoming Aunt Meg in the movie 'Twister' and plays the quirky, large hearted mother to nurse Sam in Michael Crichton's 'ER' TV show (just two mentions from her long career list).
In 'Sweet Land' Lois plays the elder versions of the leading female character: Inge.
Although the narrative starts and ends in the present day, and makes a few stops in the 1960s, the bulk of the film takes place in 1920's rural Minnesota. The story focusing mainly on the trials, tribulations and labors of Inge Altenburg, a mail-order bride from Germany, and the quiet, Norwegian, immigrant, farmer, she's been promised to: Olaf Torvack.
Actor Tim Guinee did a masterful job of portraying the stoic young Olaf while Actress Elizabeth Reaser was spectacular as the innocent, brave and unabashed young Inge.
The story of their first month together plays out against the background of the daily rigors and social fabric of rural, Minnesota farming life. The couple encounter stiff opposition to their marrying from within the community, mostly for prejudicial post World War I political reasons, and they muddle through by staying true to their hearts and goals in the face of their controversies.
This story is superbly nestled within the struggles of a modern day grandson (Lars) who is wrestling with what to do with the family land now that he has inherited it. The two-fold moral endings of the film intimate that simple, honest and true do win their days; and that such lives influence others and future generations.
I found lots to love in this movie.
With personal family that had moved to Minnesota many years ago, I had long ago exercised my fascination for cultural histories and read much about how the northern Midwest of the U.S. was settled by Scandinavian, Norwegian, and Germanic immigrants. (Folklore Village, WI - http://www.folklorevillage.org - for one excellent resource)
I greatly appreciated the attention to cultural accuracy that 'Sweet Land' included.
The background character of 'the socialist' (played by Tom Gilroy) was a favorite of mine. His campaigning for Woman Suffrage, arguing against the bankers as they foreclosed and auctioned off farms, pointing out to the people how Law and Money work together for personal gain; this man well portrayed the archetypal ancestor of the 1960's 'communist' and our modern day 'liberals.'
It was masterful, how Inge's cultured nature was made to stand out against the rural background. Her sweater well embroidered with stylish flowers, her clothing cut more fashionably, her Victrola, her albums, her glowing ringlets of hair, her knowing how to waltz and here intelligent reaching beyond the language barrier; all made Inge stand out like a flower sprung in a wheat field.
'Sweet Land' well portrayed the timeless struggles that 'just plain working' folks face. The daunting sizes of their daily tasks (maintaining buildings, machinery and livestock; vast fields to be planted, tended and harvested, all done by hand, pre-dawn to post-dusk laboring), with lives further complicated and confounded by slow and staunch government, invasive and insensitive business and meddling moral leaders causing further irritation and trouble to good hearted, well meaning folks who just want to earn a living.
'Sweet Land's' cinematography and post production were stupendous.
I especially appreciated the scenes where present day Lars turns his head in synchronicity with the youthful Lars, as memory scenes play out. It made a strong connection for the overlay of time framing and was not overdone.
Which brings me to mention that I often find myself struggling with multiple time frame transitions in a story line. It takes a masterful touch to pull me along coherently; and I thank the crews for achieving this. Thank You, Thank You.
'Sweet Land' is a great film; warm, fuzzy and uplifting.
I highly recommend it to everyone.
Characters and Cast:
Young Inge - Elizabeth Reaser
Elder Inge - Lois Smith
Olaf - Tim Guinee
Frandsen - Alan Cumming
Brownie (Frandsen's wife) - Alex Kingston
Older Frandsen - Paul Sand
Minister Sorrensen - John Heard
Harmo (the banker/businessman) - Ned Beatty
Elder Lars - Stephen Pelinski
Younger Lars - Patrick Heusinger
Karl Vik (the socialist) - Tom Gilroy
Article by Liz G. -
Article by Connie C. -
Upcoming Gather Chat with Director Ali Selim, Cast member Ned Beatty and original novel writer Will Weaver.
09 July 2007 - Bill's Spirit
Bill's Spirit is an Artist, Writer, Poet, Philosopher currently wordsmithing from a humble forge in small town Ohio.
The works of the man behind Bill's Spirit have been published in small alternative and amateur presses since 1986. Before that, they just filled notebooks, took up space on walls and gathered dust in piles and boxes.