Karl-Oskar (von Sydow) and his wife Kristina (Ullmann) struggle to work their rough patch of land in mid-nineteenth century Sweden. When their crops fail and their oldest child dies, they decide to emigrate to America where they’ve heard the land is fertile and farmers prosper. Along with their three young children and another family, they sell everything they own and embark on the long, arduous journey to the New Land.
In this absorbing, Oscar-nominated work, the first half of a two-part epic drama, Troell portrays the grueling reality of life in the 1850s with startling immediacy. Employing a naturalistic shooting style and a measured pace, he brings the historical novels of Vilhelm Moberg to vivid life. Superb performances from Ullmann and von Sydow carry what was at the time the most expensive Swedish movie ever made. Its themes of perseverance and striving for a better life remain universal.