Friday, January 18, 2008

Movie Recommendation


Sweet Land is really three stories in one. It tells the story of Inge, a mail-order bride, sent to marry Olaf, a young Norwegian farmer. She arrives in rural Minnesota at the same time that WW1 is coming to a close. It thus brings great consternation to the small community to discover that Inge is, in fact, not Norwegian, but German. And poor Inge discovers quickly that this is a community given to prejudice toward outsiders, especially Germans.

However, this tale is told through the lens of an older Inge, who is sharing her life story with her grandson Lars on the night that Olaf has passed away forty years after her arrival.

And that tale is told through the lens of Lars' own memory when he arrives on the family farm upon the death of Inge, 20 years after the death of Olaf. Thus you have all three stories weaving in and out of each other, creating a tapestry of memory and family heritage. And you see how the decisions and relationships of the past carry forward into the present day.

The essence of this tale is Inge's fierce determination to make her new life a success, while finding herself unable to communicate, unable to connect, shunned by the church, the government, and all but a few of the locals. We meet the most interesting, conniving, gentle and evil people along the way - moneygrubbing bank lenders, simple families who bathe together, anti-government activists, and simple folks who believe in simple faith whatever they are told (dancing is bad, coffee should be weak, Germans are all vicious spies).

And we see people who find the courage to stand up for what they believe in, we find pastors who recognize their faults, we find that grace, love, and mercy truly do overcome a multitude of sins. We find that family and community can overcome just about anything.

As to a recommendation, I would say that this is in my top-5 movies of the decade. It's the kind of movie that can change you. It is completely lacking in car chases, bomb explosions, gunfights, and overt sexuality, yet it's not an "innocent" film, as you see real people with all their real faults, all trying to make the best of this life. I told Karina that I wished we still had our movie-watching club together, as this is the kind of film we would use - it leaves plenty of room for discussions on faith, on religion, on prejudice, on the plight of the farmer against the international bank, on community, on family and friendship, on paranoia against the stranger, on hospitality. It's the kind of movie every thinking person ought to see, enjoy, and ingest.

Go rent it. You won't be disappointed.

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