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Sweet Land (2005)

Cast: Elizabeth Reaser, Elizabeth Reaser, Tim Guinee, more...
Director: Ali Selim, Ali Selim
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Studio: 20th Century Fox
Genre: Drama, Independent, Romance
Running Time: 111 min.
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A European exile finds herself a stranger in a strange land when she comes to the United States in this independent romantic comedy-drama. As a man ponders what to do with his family's estate after the death of his grandmother, he thinks back to how she first came to America shortly after World War I. Olaf (Tim Guinee) is a Norwegian-American farmer looking for a wife to share his home on the Minnesota prairie, and with eligible women in short supply locally, he sends away for a mail-order bride. Inge Ottenberg (Elizabeth Reaser) soon arrives at Olaf's doorstep, but while she's pretty, smart, and amiable, he's taken aback to discover she's not Norwegian but German, which after several years of anti-German propaganda does not make her popular with her new neighbors. Inge isn't very good with English, making it even harder to keep her background a secret, and the local pastor, Rev. Sorrensen (John Heard), is so outraged at the presence of a presumed Hun he refuses to perform their wedding. But Inge struggles to make friends with her new neighbors, in particular Olaf's best friend, Frandsen (Alan Cumming), a gadget fancier whose wife, Brownie (Alex Kingston), is better with mechanical items than he is. In time, Inge's cheerful nature and love of music begin to make an impression on the community as she shares her favorite tunes on her ever-present gramophone. Sweet Land was the first feature film from writer and director Ali Selim. ~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide

GreenCine Member Reviews

Sweet, Deep, and Beautiful by JJenkins1 March 31, 2008 - 10:14 PM PDT
1 out of 1 members found this review helpful
This is rare and beautiful film. The story is told with a simplicity and clarity that speaks volumes about the care taken in making the movie--the commentary indicates it was fifteen years from start to finish.

Dealing with themes of religious hypocrisy, the ruthlessness of capitalism, the hard life of the small farm family, the stereotyping of foreign cultures, and the whole cycle of life and death, the film never wavers in its lightness, irony, and warmth. We even loved the closing credits, as the two principal characters waltzed in the background behind the lists of people who helped to make the film. It's a remarkable thing when a movie succeeds in dealing with deep subjects without a heavy hand.

There were a few weaknesses--these seemed to keep the film from the greatness it approached. The opening seemed muddy, and the commentary revealed it was a huge problem for the director; it's hard to follow but mercifully brief at nine minutes; very out of character for such a clear, almost sparse production.

The plot suffered from that old flaw Aristotle called "deus ex machina," meaning a sudden solution to the drama's crisis that seems to appear out of nowhere--in this case seven thousand dollars seems to come out of thin air just when it's needed, with no justification or prior development that explains its arrival.

Finally, the stars were just plain too good-looking; it's hard to imagine a struggling Minnesota farm of 1920, with few comforts and endless labor being worked by such gorgeous people.

But let's not quibble; seldom does the riddle of life and death receive such respectful, gentle treatment. It's a movie that can make you laugh and cry at the same time.

GreenCine Member Rating

(Average 7.21)
14 Votes
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Indie Spirit Awards: Best First Feature
Winners of the Independent Spirits annual Award for Best First Feature Film. (Notice quite a few former screenwriters making their directorial debut.) Fun mix,

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