Saturday, March 22, 2014

"Sweet Land"

Last night, courtesy of Netflix, we watched "Sweet Land", a 2005 independent film that received some minor critical acclaim and not much else.  It was made for $1 million, never found a distributor with any clout, and had box office receipts of a mere $1.7 million.  It was filmed in 24 days in 2004 in a small Minnesota town, using both some surprisingly good and at times well known actors, plus local townspeople as extras, grips, and providers of services.  From this perspective, it is a well made film.

The story is set in Minnesota farm country just after World War I.  An accomplished  young farmer arranges for a mail order bride, ostensibly from Norway, to join him in his Scandinavian dominated area.  It turns out when she arrives that she is German, speaks only that language, and she was also duped into signing up as a Socialist Party member when she entered the U.S.  This does not make for an easy start, for her or her prospective husband.

They are ostracized by the town and treated poorly by the Lutheran minister and officialdom.  The story goes on from there and follows their difficult striving to succeed against all odds, especially in a culture where at harvest time all hands helped all other hands.  They were on their own.

There are powerful moments in the film that are not treated with any special emphasis.  They just creep up.  One in particular, no spoiler information, is stunning and stunningly low key.  Awaiting sleep last night, acknowledging that the mind is funny thing especially at that point of the night, that scene caused a thinking back to something that had not come up in years.  In early November 1971, strolling around the left bank of Paris at night, alone and happy to be on my own,  I passed a theater at which "Joe Hill", recently released, was playing.  Serendipity brought me there and I enjoyed the film.

The exact linkage of my thoughts still escapes good explanation, because "Joe Hill" was in your face and "Sweet Land" is definitely not.  Anyway, it makes sense to me.

As an added benefit, the soundtrack is mesmerizing, just exceptional.  Maybe film cognescenti are totally familiar with "Sweet Land", and as can easily be the case I am late to the game.  Maybe Netflix has found many viewers.  For us it was just a lucky find.


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