“Sweet Land” now ranks up with my favorite films about goodness… right alongside “Cinema Paraiso” , “Enchanted April” and “Billy Elliot”
In part, the story examines the fate of destitute Europeans during post World War I. Among the thousands who joined the migration from the conflict-ravaged continent to America was Inge Altenberg. The parents of a Norwegian immigrant farmer named Olaf Torvik, worked out an agreement whereby she would be allowed to immigrate for the purpose of marrying their son. But Inge was not warmly received in the Minnesota farming village of Audubon where Torvik lived. A German with no identity documents was not a welcome addition to the community…
One of the many charming scenes of the film shows the town’s skeptical Lutheran minister trying to speak with Inge. She cannot understand English and in an effort to communicate, he reads to her from a book of poetry. She is drawn into the lyricism of John Keats’ “A Thing of Beauty is a Joy Forever.”
However the minister, and in fact the whole town soon shun her and the county clerk refuses to marry her and Olaf.
They are forced to openly live together, and are judged as pariahs by the community. No one will help them harvest their huge field. So they set about doing so on their own, completely by hand. The film does an excellent job of showing how they are able to force their bodies to superhuman effort until the crop is completely in. Despite the disapproval of Inge and Olaf, the townspeople are impressed.
The neighbors are further moved by the young couple when they defend a family with nine children who the bank is evicting from their farm. “Agriculture and banking do not mix,” says Olaf.
The short story and DVD are both available on Amazon… Christmas is coming up and either would make a lovely gift for someone you love.