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The New Land

The New Land(1973)

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  • the new land

    • kevin sellers
    • 2/25/17

    This dark, disturbing look at the American pioneer experience, is the anti "Little House On The Prairie." It's a three hours plus compendium of almost unrelenting misery...death, drunkenness, Indian massacre, religious fanaticism, the Civil War, extreme cold, loneliness, and ill health...with basically the love of Max Von Sydow and Liv Ullman for each other and their family of five (all of whom survive; thankfully no infant deaths to add to the above litany of woe) being the sole countervailing force (albeit a strong one) to the general air of harshness that is this film. If you like downbeat, and who doesn't if it's well handled as it is here without a lot of sentimentality?, then you will, as did I, think highly of "The New Land." As always with the films of Jan Troell the pace is on the leisurely side (i.e. at least forty minutes could easily have been cut) but the towering performances of Von Sydow, Ullman, and Eddie Axberg as Von Sydow's younger brother, whose disastrous descent into hell on the way to and among the Calif. gold fields inaugurates the troubles that plague the Nillson (Americanized to Nelson) family, carry the viewer, at least this viewer, over the slow spots. And speaking of the whole gold rush sequence it's a most interesting foray by Troell from dark to positively dystopian. It's as if you were to stick a "Deadwood" episode into the middle of a Willa Cather novel. With such unexpected turns are good movies made. Let's give it an A minus, which would have been an A but for its inordinate length and centipede like pacing.

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