Thursday, August 11, 2005

Pelle the Conqueror

1989 Oscar Best Foreign Language Film

Dir: Billie August

Max von Sydow and son Pelle emigrate from Sweden to Denmark at the end of the 19th century. Forced into indentured servitude, the family encouters poverty and prejudice, a bleak life to match the stark environs. Both the immigrant workers and the landowners must wrestle with issues of freedom, sexual repression, and class.

The movie is quite good. von Sydow is, as always, great, a commanding presence even as a frail old man. The film deals with grand themes, and weaves in many different characters and episodes to address the immigrant experience from several angles. Not all resound with equal force, but none are bad. Even if the film does not always reach the mark, as I have said before, we never punish a movie for being too ambitious. But the resultion is very satisfying, nuanced, and is completely in character all around.

I am sucker for this kind of movie. Philosophical, epic, almost melodramatic. A novel on the screen (literally), a grand project that invites one to think about the human condition. In particular, I enjoyed reading the immigrant narrative through Scandavian eyes and drawing parallels to the American mythos of the same subject.

Minor note: The subtitles were designed for those hard of hearing, apparently, as I also got sound cues among the translations, such as [dogs barking] or [bells tolling]. Annoying, but it did force me to focus on the use of sound (almost no score in the whole film).

Worth your time. Always watch Max von Sydow movies. Two more posts from me without anyone else on here and I break my own record! Movies, good. You all, weak.