A Swedish peasant and his young son emigrate from to Norway and find themselves toiling cheerlessly on a remote and desolate farm owned by a lecher, run by a sadist and staffed by misfits.
Pelle The Conqueror, this yearÆs Academy Award Winner for best Foreign Language Film, is an entry in the ever-popular arthouse cycle of suffering peasant movies. Adapted from the classic Danish novel by Martin Anderson Nexo, it follows the life of bent and old Lasse Karlsson (Von Sydow) and his young son, Pelle (Hvengaard, who incidentally has the same christian name) when they emigrate from Sweden to Denmark at the turn of the century and wind up toiling cheerlessly on a remote and desolate farm owned by a lecher run by a sadist and staffed by misfits. No self-respecting arthouse filmmaker ever made a suffering Peasant movie that was 78 minutes long, and so this runs for two and a half hours and manages to alternate between impressive film-making and bum-numbing tedium. During the course of the film, young Pelle is tormented by his schoolmates and humiliated by the apprentice overseer; a girl gives birth to her employerÆs sonÆs bastard child and is dragged off to prison for murdering it; the son- who really killed the baby-sacrifices himself while trying to rescue a ship in a storm; some new emigrants turn up frozen to death in a boat, the local mutant halfwit lets Pelle whip him with stinging nettles for half a crown; the only rebellious farmhand gets bashed in with a rock and turned into a shuffling retard; the landownerÆs miserable wife cuts her husband gazebos off; Lasse thinks heÆll have a cushy berth married to a comfortable widow but her husband comes back alive; the halfwit runs away and joins the circus; the schoolmaster drops dead in class and Pelle finally decides enough is enough and leaves through the snowy wastes to an indefinite future chronicled in three more books and presumably future films. There are many good things in Pelle the Conqueror. Max Von Sydow, long since establishes as the King of Screen Suffering thanks to his Ingmar Bergman movies, got himself nominated for an Oscar for best actor, and he is marvelous. The rest of the cast are mainly required to come on, suffer, and go away again, but do their jobs well. Director Bille August and ace Scandinavian cameraman Per Holst make the film a visual treat, especially the scenes involving the sea and the winter- a ship looming out of the fog on the way to Denmark , the doomed rescue attempt, Pelle chased out on the ice by his schoolfellows,. Unfortunately, its slow pace drags the whole thing out, and the relentlessly downbeat storyline does ultimatelty go over the top and evoke giggles when you should really be sobbing.
This relentlessly downbeat Suffering Peasant film, runs for two and a half hours and manages to alternate between impressive film-making and bum-numbing tedium.