Land of the Brave

The Emigrants

Director: Erik Poppe

Cast: Gustav Skarsgard, Sofia Helin, Mikkel Brett Silset, Lisa Carlehed, Tove Lo, Laurence Kinlan

Film Rating: 6.5 out of 10

Running Time: 2 hours and 28 minutes

This film is in Swedish with English Subtitles

At a running time of 2 hours and 28 minutes, Swedish director Erik Poppe’s reimagining of the book The Emigrants written by Vilhelm Moberg published in 1949 and remake of the 1971 film, is long and arduous although held together by strong performances by the two main leads Gustaf Skarsgard, as Karl-Oskar and Lisa Carlehed as Kristina, a couple who decide to take the long and dangerous voyage from Sweden to America in his film by the same name.

The Emigrants follows the story of a young couple Karl-Oskar and Kristina who leave their family behind in Sweden and immigrate to a new world, the land of the brave, America. Only able to speak Swedish and having lost their farm in Sweden, them and a whole group of their countrymen make haste and leave Sweden with the promise of a better life in a new country.

The topic of emigration is just as relevant today as it was when this film is set in the 1850’s. The Emigrants deals with a range of issues from religious intolerance, language barriers, rural hardship and the most significant issue: the resettlement of the family and children in a new land where there are better opportunities. Most people leave one country to settle in another in search of economic security and a better life for them all.

The toils of emigrants arriving in a new land has been the subject of many films from the Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman 1992 film Far and Away to the more recent Oscar winning film Minari.

The 2021 film The Emigrants is a remake of the original 1971 film of the same name which starred Swedish acting legends Max von Sydow and Liv Ullman and was nominated for 5 Oscars.

Old prejudices from the homeland abound as Kristina initially resists friendship with local prostitute Ulrika played by Tove Lo, but soon as they both experience the hardships and opportunities of America, they become friends. While Karl-Oskar is busy preparing the farm in rural Minnesota for his expanding family, his wife Kristina yearns for her homeland Sweden and battles with differing religious convictions, the local Red Indian tribe and her children.

The Emigrants is epic in nature and is a story of resettlement told primarily from Kristina’s point of view and not so much from Karl-Oskar’s viewpoint which is apparently different to the original novel and the 1971 film. Interestingly, this version has a distinctly feminist slant.

Outside of the Swedish speaking world, many viewers will not be familiar with the backstory of The Emigrants, however as film, director Erik Poppe’s focus seems to linger too long on all the gory details and not so much on the general historical context era of the time.  

If viewers enjoy an epic and interesting historical adventure, then The Emigrants is recommended viewing. The 2021 version of The Emigrants gets a film rating of 6.5 out of 10.

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