Hollywood does not make
enough films that can literally be called different, but Sweet Land
is a legitimately unique film.
Sweet Land is a love
story based on the immigrant experience of the 1920s, however, it is not
about passion or lust or even attraction. It is the mating dance of
two very different people who barely know each other but are thrown together
by fate and learn to make the best of their circumstances.
Elisabeth Reaser plays Inge,
a German woman who moves to the American heartland to marry Olaf (Tim Guinee),
a man she has never met or even seen beyond a badly creased photograph.
She has never been to the United States, nor does she speak any English.
She is also forced to pretend that she is Hungarian because of lingering
hard feelings about World War I.
Olaf is a farmer, quiet,
stubborn, worried about appearances and very much introverted. When
they are unable to marry because her nationality comes to light, Olaf feels
a mixture of responsibility for her and betrayal that she was not what she
Their relationship is taken
in by the watching eyes of the town, including his best friend (Alan
Cummings), a farmer living beyond his means who is the only person who seems
to believe that Inge and Olaf should be together. The local pastor
(John Heard) vilifies them for living in the same home (though completely
platonically) before marriage. In the meantime Olaf's farm is put in
jeopardy by a heartless banker (Ned Beatty).
Throw away any
preconceptions you have about love stories. Sweet Land is
old-fashioned and pragmatic about romance, but it shows that necessity can
foster connections much stronger than our slight ideas of attraction could
ever. Not that I, or mostly anyone would want life to go back to this
way, but it is fascinating to see an example when an arranged marriage
actually led to a lifelong bond. They don't make movies like this
anymore, and that is a shame.
Reaser, who has slowly but
surely been making a name in films (The Family Stone, Sing or Forever
Hold Your Peace, Puccini for Beginners) over the last couple of years, is a
revelation. She plays a part in which at least 75% of her dialogue is
in either Hungarian or German and feels completely natural and realistic at
all times. It is a shame that Sweet Land came out so early in
the year and with relatively little notice, because Reaser is deserving of
some serious Oscar buzz come next February.
Copyright ©2007 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.
Posted: July 10, 2007.