Tuesday, August 18, 2009
I watch a lot of movies ... so many in fact, that I'm ashamed to admit it. Generally, 80% of what I watch is either bad, trivial and/or forgettable. But there is that 20% that manages to produce a kind of magic or beauty that makes them deserving of mention. I just watch Sweet Land (Winner of the Independent Film Spirit Award a few years ago) and it is wonderful. Although the story moves back and forth in time from the 1920's to the present, the majority of the action takes place in Minnesota where a Norweigian-American farmer, Olaf (Tim Guinee), receives a mail-order bride (the almost painfully beautiful Elizabeth Reaser) who turns out to be German. (She arrives with a wind-up gramaphone and one English sentence that she repeats with varied effects: "I could eat a horse.").That is not good since Olaf's neighbors are rabidly anti-German. The couple cannot get married since the local priest (John Heard) refuses to perform the ceremony. I won't give away the bitter-sweet plot, but the film is filled with marvelous characters, including Alan Cumming as Olaf's best friend and Ned Beatty as a nasty, pompous banker. One note of caution. If you become impatient with "delayed consumations," the film will drive you crazy. If you watch this one, savor the maddening delays along with some of the most compelling music and lush scenery I have heard/seen in long time. It is also about a vanished culture and a time when farmers had a bond with the earth that amounted to a religion. Sweet Land is filled with images of growth, seasonal changes that reminded me of Days of Heaven. This film is based on an award-winning short story, "A Gravestone Made of Wheat," by Will Weaver.