Tonight I saw Sweet Land, a drama époque film movie ambient in harvest season in rural Minnesota, the movie tremble my mod. I cannot explain the myriad of connections and senses that the movie caused me. Maybe I miss upper-Midwest and the good people that I met there. Probably is my biographic predisposition to non-urban stories (in fact, similar to the character in mi child house we had a Victrola jukebox too). Perhaps is my sympathy with migrant tales, whatever today I woke-up evoking “my good germans” (how I call them, to distinguish them from «the others.»)
In the formal Sweet Land was directed by Ali Selim, himself an immigrant son. The movie is an adaptation of the 1989 short story «A Gravestone Made of Wheat» by Will Weaver (1950, Grand Rapids, MN). Weaver is a typical Scandinavian descent with 150 acre’s farms. Indeed, Weaver —today a literature professor— grew up on a small dairy farm, and until today he try to conciliate “be a gentleman farmer/writer…, but I had forgotten how much work farming was”, he write in his website.
The plot take place few years after WWI war, Inge Altenberg (the loveliness Elizabeth Reaser), an orphan from Snåsa, Norway, arrives to America to meet and marrying with immigrant farmer Olaf Torvik (Tim Guinee). Troubles began when Olaf, and the rest of community discovered that she don’t speak English only Deutsch, in fact she is German immigrant with no papers. To make worse, when she arrived has unintentionally sign membership papers for the American Socialist Party. Shocked, both the town’s Lutheran Pastor and the County Judge reject to marry them. Inge and Olaf find themselves ostracized by the entire town, and they are then forced to harvest their crop without help, by hand and alone. Obviously the harvest brings not only work, but real love too.
The story take place in Audubon, a village in Norwest Minnesota (population was 519 at the 2010 census), but was filmed in Montevideo another Minnesotanian place, twinned with the “real” Montevideo in Uruguay. Nevertheless, both the rhythm of the narration, as the framing of the scenes was perfect for me. Exterior frames with bright colored reflect the extreme landscape’s flatness, yet always the focus still the ever-present green corn fields and clear blue sky. All elements put the perfect setting for a lovely story, where we can recognize ethical and an aesthetic Lutheran-idiosyncrasy: formal, but friendly; tough, but hard-working; modest, but entrenched in his land, which makes up the inner core of that treasured land is known as upper Midwest.
If you want read a good Sweet Land’s critique beyond my mediocre English, here the place: http://www.curatormagazine.com/jennisimmons/sweet-land-the-waltz-of-olaf-and-inge/
Finnally, I leave you a short dialogue that seeks to condense all this spirit:
—Pastor Sorrensen: Lo siento [no puedo casarlos].
—Olaf: Pero este es su lugar ahora.
—Pastor: ¿Cómo puede serlo?
—Inge: Usted puede hacer que lo sea.
—Pastor: Tú no tienes papeles.
—Inge: Ahora, estoy casada. Yo soy ciudadanía(sic). En mi corazón, yo lo creo.
—Pastor: Eso no es suficiente, Inge, en tu corazón tú lo crees; pero tiene que ser real.
—Inge: ¿Usted cree que Dios?
—Pastor: [desconcertado, pausa, sonriendo]… Está bien. En mi corazón. Los veré a los dos el domingo.
—Pastor Sorrensen: I’m sorry.
—Olaf: This is her place now.
—Pastor: How can it be?
—Inge: You can let it be.
—Pastor: You don’t have the papers.
—Inge: Now, I am married. I am citizenship. In my heart, I believe.
—Pastor: That’s not enough, Inge, in your heart to believe. It has to be real.
—Inge: You believes God?
—Pastor: [bewildered, smiling] Alright. In my heart, I’ll see you both on Sunday.