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Film / The New Land

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The New Land is a 1972 film from Sweden, directed and co-written by Jan Troell, starring Max von Sydow and Liv Ullmann, telling the story of the people who would be saying "Yah, you betcha" 140 years later in Fargo.

It is an adaptation of the Swedish novel series The Emigrants and sequel to 1971 film The Emigrants, which also starred Von Sydow and Ullmann. Von Sydow and Ullmann reprise their roles of Karl-Oskar and Kristina Nilsson. The film opens with the couple arriving with their family in Minnesota in 1850, taking up residents as tenant farmers in the countryside and joining a small community of fellow Swedish immigrants. Life is difficult for the new arrivals, with the normal burdens of the pioneer farmer combined with the increased expense of living in America, the brutality of the winters on the Great Plains, and the danger presented by the Sioux Indians, which culminates with the 1862 Dakota War. Through it all, Karl Oskar remains pleased with the decision to emigrate and the opportunities the New World presents, but Kristina is forever homesick, longing for a country that's far away and can never be reached again.

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Tropes:

  • Blood from the Mouth: When Arvid dies after drinking contaminated water, he has dried trickles of blood around his mouth.
  • Can't Have Sex, Ever: The verdict after Karl-Oskar and Kristina learn that another pregnancy might kill her. Eventually Kristina decides to have sex with her husband again, regardless of the consequences. Sadly, the doctor's warning proves prophetic.
  • Carcass Sleeping Bag: When Karl-Oskar and his son Johan are caught out in the open as a blizzard hits, the boy eventually collapses. Karl-Oskar saves Johan's life by slicing open the oxen that was pulling their cart and stuffing Johan inside while he goes to get help.
  • Cassandra Truth: Karl-Oskar refuses to believe that Robert's search for gold was successful, as he has always been a teller of tall tales, and when he hands over hundreds of dollars, Karl-Oskar's first instinct is that Robert forged them - a suspicion that seems to be confirmed when he takes them to the bank and is told they are worthless. However, Robert really did find gold in California, but was unknowingly swindled out of it by a fellow Swede in a "wildcat banking" con.
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  • Converting for Love: Ulrika converts to Baptism in order to marry Pastor Jackson.
  • Desert Skull: Robert and Arvid get a vivid illustration of just how deep they're in trouble in the Thirsty Desert when they come across the bones of a would-be miner.
  • Determined Homesteader: Karl-Oskar, determined to build a new and better life for his family in America. Kristina has more mixed emotions about leaving their homeland.
  • Distant Finale: The story takes place 1850-1862, with an Epilogue Letter ending in 1890.
  • Epilogue Letter: A letter to the family back in Sweden telling how Karl-Oskar mourned Kristina until he died, while his children assimilated fully to the United States, eventually forgetting how to speak Swedish.
  • Flashback: Robert's ill-fated prospecting expedition to California is told in a series of flashbacks after he returns to Karl-Oskar and Kristina's farm in Minnesota.
  • Gold Fever: Robert goes trundling off to California to join the gold rush. It turns out to be a bad idea.
  • Gorn: Yep, that's an unborn baby ripped out of its mother's womb and nailed to the wall of a cabin.
  • Grave-Marking Scene: Karl-Oskar visiting Kristina's grave at the end.
  • Immigrant Patriotism: Most of the immigrant farmers are much happier in Minnesota than they were in Småland, and Karl-Oskar in particular never misses an opportunity to celebrate the economic mobility and opportunities they now have. Kristina, by contrast, never stops thinking of herself as Swedish, constantly referring to the farm in Ljuder as "home" even after having lived in Minnesota for twelve years.
  • An Immigrant's Tale: This being the story of the struggles of new arrivals.
  • Incurable Cough of Death: Robert has a persistent cough after returning to Minnesota, and wakes up one morning to find blood on his sheet. He hides it, but eventually Karl-Oskar and Kristina catch on, and he dies a few weeks later.
  • Injun Country: Still a lot of Sioux in Minnesota territory when the family arrives. Kristina is terrified of them, and at one point hallucinates two Sioux warriors walking into her house uninvited, picking up Karl-Oskar's hunting rifle, and pointing it at her and the children. The film's final act is set during the 1862 Sioux Uprising, when several hundred European settlers were massacred by the Sioux after a standoff with the US government led to widespread starvation.
  • Intermission: "PAUS" ("pause", that is).
  • The Ken Burns Effect: The very last shot of the movie has the camera zooming out from a photo of an elderly Karl-Oscar and his extended family.
  • Moral Guardians: The obnoxious neighbors who demand that Karl-Oskar and Kristina shun Ulrika for marrying a Baptist and leaving the Lutheran church. Karl-Oskar and Kristina point out that this is the sort of bigotry they were trying to leave behind by emigrating.
  • Morning Sickness: Kristina finds out that Ulrika is pregnant when she has to go outside to be sick while Kristina is visiting her and her husband.
  • The Mourning After: Karl-Oskar never gets over Kristina's death; he never re-marries and becomes solitary and withdrawn, although the extended family portrait at the very end of the film suggests that he at least stayed in touch with his children and their families.
  • Nice Hat: Kristina is bowled over when her friend Ulrika shows off an enormous purple hat festooned with flowers that she was given by her new husband.
  • Oh, Crap!: As Robert and Arvid stagger through the desert, almost insane with thirst, Arvid sees a putrid-looking channel of water, but is so desperate that he drinks from it anyway. Robert, however, notices a nearby sign (in English) warning that the water is poisonous, and his expression changes to absolute horror and fear for his friend's life. He tries to stick his fingers down Arvid's throat, but Arvid keeps pushing him away.
  • Please Don't Leave Me: Done with perfection by Max von Sydow in the scene where Kristina dies following a miscarriage.
    Karl Oskar: Kristina! Stay!
  • Screaming Birth: Kristina undergoes a painful delivery of their first child born in America.
  • Settling the Frontier: Claiming new land and building a new life in the wilds of Minnesota.
  • Tempting Fate: "Anders says that the Indians aren't hostile," says Karl-Oskar in 1850. Well, they weren't hostile then.
  • Thirsty Desert: Robert and Arvid's ill-advised pursuit of a runaway mule leads to them getting lost in one. Arvid dies from drinking tainted water but Robert is rescued.
  • Tragic Bromance: Robert and Arvid end up this way.

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