Sweet Land is the directorial debut of Ali Selim. Written by him, it is based on the short story "A Gravestone Made of Wheat" by Will Weaver. Winner of four film festival awards, it tells the story of Inge, a mail-order bride from Germany, who comes to Minnesota to marry Olaf, a quiet immigrant farmer. The story takes place shortly after WWI in a xenophobic America filled with distrust of and prejudices against anything German. Because of this, the local minister refuses to marry Inge and Olaf. Inge has arrived in the States with no immigration papers, and she and Olaf are referred to the local judge who also refuses to help, again based on Inge's home country.
The story goes on to show the love and longing that develop between Inge and Olaf and how Inge's feistiness and refusal to say "no" changes not only Olaf but the surrounding community as well. Told through the eyes of Inge as she relates to her grandson the story of the love between his grandparents, the film is a poignant reminder that love does indeed go on forever.
Sweet Land is not only a love story but a social and economic commentary on post-WWI America. There is the high culture of the German Inge who carries her victrola with her to America, plays classical records as she helps Olaf harvest the wheat field, and quickly recognizes John Keats. There is the basic practicality of getting the work done attitudes of Olaf and Frandsen, and the crass capitalistic exploitation of the banker and the bidders at the auction. We are also given a quick glimpse at the beginnings of the progressive movement.
Beautifully filmed, the movie is a wonderful, slow-paced diversion from today's fast-moving world. It is also a welcome change from the usual action-packed movies, and it is nice to see a movie that the entire family can sit down and enjoy no matter their age. As the character Frandsen would say, Sweet Land is "ducky", very "ducky". I would highly recommend it to everyone!
Sweet Land : A Love Story
Directed by Ali Selim
Starring Elizabeth Reaser, Tim Guinee, Lois Smith, Alex Kingston, Paul Sand, John Heard, Ned Beatty, Alan Cumming, Tom Gilroy, Jodie Markell, and Patrick Heusinger
Additional links and info:
Connie C's review
Liz G's review
Bill's Spirit's review
Amanda C's review
Gather's interview with Elizabeth Reaser & Tim Guinee
Gather's live chat with director/writer Ali Selim, short story writer Will Weaver, and actor Ned Beatty