Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

26 November 2014

The Briefest of Reviews from 1972

I have been trying to watch Jan Troell's Utvandrarna or The Emigrants for years. This Swedish film is not on DVD, but if you're lucky you can find it in a dubbed, pan-and-scan version on VHS. That's the best anyone can do, and even this is hard to come by. I finally got to watch most of it yesterday and the end of it today. It's a long, difficult film that focuses on the troubles of living in nineteenth-century Sweden (chief among these problems: the class struggle). Troell's film is about leaving Europe, the difficulties of deciding to leave, and the long, brutal journey to the New World. What's extraordinary about Utvandrarna is the time Troell spends watching the emigrants travel. As far as I can tell, no one has made a film quite like this – most skip the travel section of such narratives and go directly toward settling in and building a home in the U.S. Not Troell: this film lives with the emigrants as they cross the Atlantic, watches them try to learn English on the boat, deal with sickness, nearly starve to death, and bury those who couldn't make it. By the end of the journey, I was completely sold on the film: it's a long, hard ride, but it is very rewarding.