Sweet Land (2005)

Rated: PG .Grade: CABB=B

Starring: Elizabeth Reaser, Tim Guinee, Alan Cumming, John Heard, Alex Kingston, and Ned Beatty.

Summary: Inge has come to America in the 1920s because of an arranged marriage between her and Olaf. The only problem is that she doesn’t speak any English since she’s from Germany, so she can’t establish her identity properly. Furthermore, in a rural community serious about it’s anti-Germanism and, ironically, its Lutheranism, she encounters opposition from every side. But, gradually, romance buds between her and Olaf as they struggle to prove there’s more to community than language.

Entertainment Value: C Slow, slow, very slow. Slower than slow. Did I mention that it’s slow? That being said, it’s a pretty and charming little slow movie about romance growing in the most unlikely of circumstances. I wasn’t thrilled that they have Inge talking so often in foreign languages without giving us subtitles, but I’m sure they did it to create the same sort of frustration that someone who does not speak the language would feel.

Superficial Content: A Drugs/Alcohol A, Sexuality A, Violence A-, Language A, Illegality A There are really just two minor elements that might bother someone. One is a brief fistfight shown outside a church. The other is some partial nudity because of baths and a humorous situation. But, otherwise, I would almost be tempted to give this a G rating.

Significant Content: B There are three main themes in this movie. The first is the difference between superficial and substantial Christianity. The second is the unusual and sometimes unexpected ways in which love can develop even when people don’t initially seem suited for each other. The third is the importance of living a life for some sort of dream rather than just as an exercise in working for the sake of working. Oh, yeah. And bankers are evil. Some will be troubled by the negative light cast on the religious community here when the pastor rushes to judgment unfairly, but it’s a valid indictment under the circumstances. But I thought the movie showed the real power of Christian charity and faith, as well as transforming a community. Besides, any movie where being religious is a central thread is a good thing.

Artistic/Thought Value: B As mentioned above, I’m sure that not translating the language for us was an artistic choice that makes sense. The scenes are all interestingly shot. But the most interesting artistic choice here was the connection between selling the land in the 20s and the offer to buy the land in current times. When you’ve invested so much in keeping a piece of land, it’s impossible to imagine getting rid of it at any price.

Discussion Questions:
~What are the advantages of arranged marriages over “love” marriages?
~How do Olaf’s actions represent faith? How do Inge’s?
~It’s easy to discount the prejudice in this story because Germany is such an ally and long-ago enemy. But consider how Americans today generally treat Arabic speakers who might come to this country.
~Is it important to have a life which has at least a few dreams in it? Why?
~Are the bankers in this movie really as bad as they seem?
~Why do some people feel such a sense of attachment to land?

Overall Grade: B And, no. In case you’re wondering, Frandsen is played by Alan Cummings, the weird guy from Spy Kids 2, not Paul Reubens, Pee-Wee Herman.

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