The Emigrants (film)

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The Emigrants
The Emigrants poster.png
Directed by Jan Troell
Produced by Bengt Forslund
Written by Bengt Forslund
Jan Troell
Starring Max von Sydow
Liv Ullmann
Eddie Axberg
Monica Zetterlund
Distributed by Warner Bros. (U.S.)
Release dates
  • 8 March 1971 (1971-03-08)
Running time
191 minutes
Country Sweden
Language Swedish
Budget $1.6 million

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.

The Emigrants was critically hailed all over the world, and was nominated for Academy Award for Best Foreign Film in 1971. After screened properly in 1972, it was nominated for four more Oscars the following year, all in the major categories: Best Picture, Best Director for Troell, Best Actress for Ullmann, and Best Adapted Screenplay.

The 1974 American television series The New Land was based loosely on both The Emigrants and its sequel The New Land.[1]


The film begins in 1844 in the Swedish province of Smaland, where in Ljuder Parish lives the Nilsson family. They live on a small farm in the woods at Korpamoen, which consists of a small plot of infertile land riddled with stones. They have three children; Their oldest son, Karl Oskar, is in line to inherit the farm from his father Nils, who has been crippled from an injury sustained after a failed attempt to dig a large boulder out of the earth in one of their fields. A daughter, Lydia, works as a maid in the nearby town of Akerby, while their youngest son Robert works as a farmhand at another farm at Nybacken. While Karl Oskar is in the process of inheriting the farm, Nils informs him that he needs a wife to be a successful farmer. Afterwards, Karl Oskar meets a young girl named Kristina Johansdotter, who soon becomes his bride. She moves to Korpamoen to live with him and his parents. In the following years, Karl Oskar and Kristina start a family, starting with a daughter, Anna, followed by a son, Johan, then another daughter, Marta, and finally another son, Harald. Times are difficult: there is bad weather, the harvests are poor, and hunger prevails. Karl Oskar's rebellious younger brother Robert first comes across the idea of emigrating to America, tired of being treated poorly as a farmhand. He first asks his friend Arvid, another farmhand at Nybacken to come along with him, who eagerly agrees to do so, but the pair's hopes are dashed when they realize they haven't the money needed for their passage. Robert confronts Karl Oskar about selling his share of the farm in order to afford the passage, only to find out that Karl Oskar himself had been considering the idea of moving his family to the United States. Despite the offerings of a better life, Kristina adamantly rejects the notion, not wanting to leave her homeland as well as being fearful of risking the lives of their four young children on the ocean. However, one night, hunger compels the couple's eldest daughter Anna to secretly eat food that was not ready to be eaten. She eats so much that it causes her stomach to burst, and she dies the following morning.

Devastated by this loss, Kristina ultimately decides to agree to Karl Oskar's plan to emigrate to the United States, and the two of them, together with Robert begin making preparations for the journey. Meanwhile, Kristina's uncle, Danjel Andreasson finds himself in trouble with the parish clergy for preaching in his home the teachings of the Akian sect to which he belongs. This leads to him, his wife Inga Lena, and their four young children being exiled from Sweden. After this, Danjel arrives at Korpamoen one night and tells Karl Oskar that the Lord sent him a message in his sleep, telling him to get his family out of Sweden at once and go to America with Karl Oskar, an idea that delights Kristina. Danjel immediately joins in on the planning process, informing them that along with Inga Lena and the children, he also plans to bring two of his followers to America as well, Ulrika of Vastergohl, a former prostitute, and her sixteen-year-old daughter Elin. Keeping Arvid in mind, Robert asks Danjel if he could use a farmhand, and as his last hired hand ran away after the clergy began prosecuting him, he agrees to hire Arvid and pay his fare to America. Not long afterwards, a friend and neighbor of Karl Oskar, Ulas Petterson, also expresses an interest of going with them to North America as an escape from his unhappy marriage. The night before their departure, Kristina reveals to Karl Oskar that she is expecting another child. The party travels south from Korpamoen to the port city of Karlshamn, where they board the wooden brig Charlotta, which is bound for New York City. Onboard, Karl Oskar and Kristina meet Mans and Fina Kajsa Andersson, an elderly couple heading for the Minnesota Territory, where they plan to settle on their son's farm near a town called Taylor's Falls. After hearing how good the land is there, Karl Oskar and Kristina decide to follow them to Minnesota. During the voyage, Inga Lena and Mans Andersson die of sudden illnesses, which nearly claims Kristina as well.

Upon their arrival in New York, Karl Oskar and his party along with Fina Kajsa begin the long journey westward to Minnesota, first by train, then by riverboat. During the journey from Sweden, Karl Oskar and Kristina have had difficulties dealing with Ulrika, but they quickly reconcile during a stop during the journey on the riverboat when one of Karl Oskar and Kristina's children becomes lost, only to be found by Ulrika. Not long afterwards, tragedy strikes the party again when Danjel's infant daughter dies after a brief illness. The party finally arrives at the town of Stillwater and with the help of a friendly Baptist priest they are able to find their way to the widow's son's farm in what is now known as the Chisago Lakes area. After Danjel and Ulas Petterson make their claims to fine tracts of farmland, Karl Oskar heads deep into the woods to explore the lands along the shore of lake Ki Chi Saga, now known as Chisago Lake. Upon his arrival, he finds the topsoil to be of excellent quality and makes a claim to the land for himself and Kristina and their family by carving his initials into a tree overlooking the lake.



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."[2] Vincent Canby of The New York Times hailed the acting performances, especially from von 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."[3]

Awards and honours[edit]

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).[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Brooks, Tim, and Earle Marsh, The Complete Directory to Prime-Time Network and Cable TV Shows, 1946-Present, Sixth Edition, New York: Ballantine Books, 1995, ISBN 0-345-39736-3, p. 738.
  2. ^ Schickel, Richard (1972). "When America was a dream". Life (October 13): 28. Retrieved 2010-01-21. 
  3. ^ Canby, Vincent (1972-09-25). "' The Emigrants,' a Swedish Film Epic, Lands Here". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-01-21.
  4. ^ "The 44th Academy Awards (1972) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 2011-11-27. 
  5. ^ "Utvandrarna (1971)". Swedish Film Institute. 2 March 2014. 

External links[edit]