The Emigrants (Swedish: Utvandrarna) is a 1971 Swedish film directed by Jan Troell. It tells the story of a Swedish group who emigrate from Småland, Sweden to Minnesota, United States in the 19th century. The film follows the hardship of the group in Sweden and on the trip.
The film is based on the first two novels of The Emigrants suite by Vilhelm Moberg: The Emigrants and Unto a Good Land. It was adapted to the screen by Bengt Forslund and Jan Troell. The Emigrants stars Max von Sydow and Liv Ullmann in the lead, along with Eddie Axberg, Sven-Olof Bern, Aina Alfredsson, Allan Edwall, Monica Zetterlund and Pierre Lindstedt. The Emigrants was followed by a 1972 sequel, The New Land (Nybyggarna), with the same cast.
In the middle of the 19th century, a young couple, Kristina and Karl-Oskar, live in Smaland - a small rural community in southern Sweden. They survive on a small plot of infertile land. Times are difficult: there is bad weather, the harvests are poor, and hunger prevails. Hunger forces the couple's first-born child to secretly eat food that was not ready to be eaten. Their child dies as a result, and her death convinces Kristina to agree to Karl-Oskar's desire to emigrate to the US. They are joined by Karl-Oskar's brother, Robert, another family that is escaping religious persecution, and a man running away from a troublesome wife. The film traces their difficult ten-week journey on a rickety sailing ship across the Atlantic, then an inland journey to what is now Minnesota. The emigrants survive the journey and start their life in the New World.
Richard Schickel wrote in Life that "Jan Troell has made the masterpiece about the dream that shaped America - a dream, and an America, fast disappearing from our views." Vincent Canby of The New York Times hailed the acting performances, especially from Sydow and Ullmann, which he found to hold "a kind of spontaneous truth, in look and gesture, that does a lot to relieve the otherwise programed nobility, truth and beauty." One complaint was raised by Canby: "As he showed in Here's Your Life, Mr. Troell, who is a fine cameraman, simply cannot resist the extra shot of sunlight-reflected-in-water that becomes just one too many, a thing of movie decoration."
Awards and honours
The Emigrants was nominated for five Academy Awards. It is notable that the nomination for Best Foreign Language Film came from the 1972 Oscars, while the rest came from the following year:
At the 30th Golden Globe Awards it won the awards for Best Foreign Language Film and Best Actress (Liv Ullmann). In Sweden it won the Guldbagge Awards for Best Film and Best Actor (Eddie Axberg).