Utvandrarna

I spent some time working on papers, getting ready to grade them.  When I returned home, I looked at the unseen Blu-ray discs on my shelf and decided to watch “The Emigrants.”  I had seen this movie before on DVD, but this edition opened my eyes to the beauty of the settings and the greatness of the actors.  This is an instance of high definition making a huge improvement over what was available in the past.  The story begins in 1844 in Swedish with a family struggling to live on their farm with bad weather, poverty, and hunger.  The movie reminded me of “The Grapes of Wrath.”  I was impressed with the way it held my interest through three hours.  This is a movie that doesn’t feel like it runs too long, even at that length.  As Karl Oskar and Kristina continue to have more children in the face of poverty, it feels like they are headed for disaster, and they need to do something drastic.  They have strange ideas about America from what they have read.  They seem like the Okies reading those flyers about California.  They haven’t been too far from their village ever in their lives.  How do you learn how to pronounce English words from a book?  It looked like it would take forever to get to the port with their horses and carts, and I wondered what happened to their horses.  If everyone in Sweden wanted to leave, they wouldn’t get a good price for them.  The Charlotta sequence was really compelling, and the trip made me think back to “Roots.”  The lice, seasickness, and unsanitary conditions made me think that it was a journey that was even worse than today’s cruises.  When I am tempting to go on one of those theme cruises, I think about this movie and come to my senses.  It looked like travel by train and riverboat wasn’t too comfortable.  It seemed that Kristina was too generous with her food, and I didn’t know how they expected to survive.  She seemed like a fool in putting so much faith in her religion.  I wondered why they felt like they should go to Minnesota of all places.  I thought they wanted to get away from the cold winters.  It seemed like when they got to Taylor’s Falls, they were back in Sweden.  I liked watching Max von Sydow in this movie.  I’m not sure he was ever much better in a movie, unless it was “The Seventh Seal” or “Hannah and Her Sisters.”  Liv Ullmann was remarkable, too.  “The Emigrants” was the great film of Jan Troell’s career, and it was a fantastic achievement.  The sequel, “The New Land,” wasn’t so impressive, but still very interesting.  I sometimes wonder what Jan Troell was doing over the next forty years before “Everlasting Memories” was released.  He seemed to disappear the way that Terrence Malick disappeared.  I’m glad that movies like “The Emigrants” exist.  They show what the human spirit is made of, what people do to survive, and the ups and downs of life.  They work so hard and suffer so deeply that I don’t know what they’re getting out of life.  I thought this was one of the best of the Criterion Collection Blu-ray discs I have seen.  It renewed the film in my mind and brought out things I hadn’t noticed before, from reflections in the water to facial expressions that made the film richer and more vivid and memorable.  I felt to sleep feeling pretty good.  I awoke in the night briefly and watched the beginning of The Jimmy Stewart Show.  I’d like to know where they filmed the show.  His character was supposed to be a professor.  On the morning news, I heard Roberta Gonzales expressing her happiness over the San Jose Sharks’ win.  The A’s loss on Tuesday became more irritating after their bad game last night in Seattle.  Some of the people who died on May 26 include Jimmie Rodgers (1933), Friz Freleng (1995), Eddie Albert (2005), Sydney Pollack (2008), and Art Linkletter (2010).  Today is a birthday for Pam Grier (67) and Stevie Nicks (68).  According to the Brandon Brooks Rewind radio segment for May 26, “My Friend Flicka,” starring Roddy McDowell, was released in 1943.  In 1973, the Edgar Winter Group had the Number One single, “Frankenstein.”  In 1974, 650 fans were injured at a David Cassidy concert at White City Stadium in London, with a 14-year-old girl dying from her injuries.  In 2010, Art Linkletter died at age 97 at his home in Bel Air.

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