Friday, July 26, 2019

Pelle The Conqueror 1987

Two and a half hours of pure joy. This Foreign film Oscar winner spreads across time in a beautiful and leisurely fashion telling the story of a young boy and his old father making their way in a new land. Based on the first book in a series of autobiographical works by Martin Andersen Nexe the film opens in the early 20th century as Pelle an eleven year old boy and his father Lasse land in Denmark from Sweden looking for a better future. Set on the dock at Bornholm after their long voyage things immediately look grim for them, but soon the father played by one of the great actors of cinema Max Von Sydow (Oscar nominated for the film) is hired as a worker on a large farm where his young son Pelle will also be required to work. Its a hard life for sure, but soon they are getting settled and are embraced by their fellow workers and the rich landowners, a jolly kind  but cheating husband and his sorrowful wife who cries herself to sleep while keeping everyone up at night with her baleful wales . The film is directed by Bille August who with his able screenwriters and great cinematographer fill the wide screen with great characters, incidents and beautiful vistas and landscapes mostly set in the barren winter months. The many characters, villagers, farm workers,teachers and young lovers are all well known souls who have passed through many works of fiction and movies. However these lovely people are full of surprises for us. They don’t fit our expectations of what small town characters should be, and just when we think we know what to expect from them the story and the director flip them and us on our heads. They don’t do what we expect of them. The young actor who plays Pelle is also named Pelle with the last name of Hvenegaard and he is remarkable. Kind and  lovable with a beautiful face and a sometimes rebellious nature who like all children can also be mean and vicious.  He loves his father dearly even though Max can sometimes disappoint and fail him as a parent. I can happily add this film about childhood and adolescence to a group of some of my favorite films on this subject, The Little Fugitive, The 400 Blows, The Fallen Idol, The Night Of The Hunter and many others. This would be the perfect film to watch in the cold dark months of winter, but this great film is watchable and appreciated even on a hot summer night in New York City. One of the ten best films of 1987. 


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