Sunday, July 17, 2011

Movie Review: Sweet Land: A Love Story

Rating: 5 Stars

Synopsis from Adapted from a Will Weaver story, Ali Selim's Sweet Land is a truly sweet story about unlikely immigrant lovers whose struggle for integration into 1920's America earns them a work ethic more American than many of their narrow-minded neighbors. Set in rural Minnesota, the sentimental film focuses on tribulations that Scandinavian settlers experienced, with a cinematic serenity reminiscent of Terrence Malik's Days of Heaven. Norwegian farmer Olaf Torvik (Tim Guinee) invites a non-English speaking German siren, Inge Alltenburg (Elizabeth Reaser), to relocate and marry him, but discovers that neither the town's Lutheran pastor (John Heard) nor the local judge will marry a German into their community for fear of wartime German spies. Inge finds friendship in neighbors Frandsen (Alan Cumming) and his wife, Brownie (Alex Kingston), who disregarding local gossip, welcome her into their home. Finally, Inge proves herself, settling in so that Sweet Land's historical narrative is framed by Inge, fifty years later, speaking to her adult son about her husband's death and their plot of land. This multi-generational tale of social acceptance and land ownership is ultimately the story of America, though the regional specificity of Sweet Land will speak especially to those familiar with Midwestern culture. --Trinie Dalton


Review: I discovered Sweet Land at my local library and checked it out on a whim, mainly because the synopsis sounded like the plot of a book I would read. I am so glad I struck gold with this discovery! Sweet Land is one of the rare and special movies that lingers in your mind long after you finish watching it.  I definitely understand why it has received numerous accolades and awards.  The acting is spectacular and real; the scenery is stunning; and the plot is touching, heart-warming, and heart-breaking. 

Some of the conversation occurs in German with no subtitles to offer translation to those of us who don't speak the language.  Despite the lack of subtitles, I could understand the gist of situations based on tone and nonverbal cues.  I confess that I would love to know what Inge is saying at the beginning of the clip. The fact that Inge is not fluent in English when she arrives in Minnesota and is misunderstood by many of the townspeople adds to the realism of the story and helps to make the viewer sympathetic to the plight that immigrants faced (and still face) when moving to a new country.  The gentle love that blossoms between Inge and Olaf during the course of the movie in spite of adversity is inspiring.  This is a love story that I will not soon forget!

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