...The Emigrants is a film that closely examines two very different cultures in an effective and insightful way. A diverse group of Swedish peasants (among them a married couple, a priest, a prostitute, and a young upstart) endure back-breaking labor in their homeland to little profit. They decide to move to the states after being influenced by the exaggerated stories spread abroad (everyone has more than enough food, everyone is filthy rich, etc.). The audience sympathizes with them not just because they endure so much in Sweden, but also because they believe the stories they hear about frontier life in America. Yes, they will obviously have to strive and struggle to survive in their new home, but they are all the more admirable because of their adherence to the American dream.
The Emigrants is harsh and often unrelenting in the straightforward way it depicts the realities encountered by the Swedish settlers. The scenes where they travel across the ocean in a small, cramped, and diseased ship are appropriately claustrophobic and terrifying. Later, the family at the center of the story threatens to break up when Liv Ullmann's character, a fragile young mother, loses track of her daughter while hurrying to board a steamboat.
Although most of the characters were better developed in the sequel to this film, The New Land, Troell's story is very moving in its sincere depiction of how outsiders came to this country to pursue their hopes and dreams.
-- William Ploch, IMDb
Troell's massive visual exuberance shows him to be the least blasé of the new directors; he's a nature poet telling stories. He photographs his own movies in addition to directing and editing them and collaborating on the writing; in the whole history of the screen there have been only a handful of directors who actually shot their own movies, and no other cinematographer-director has ever undertaken a work of this sweep. As the first major cinematographer-director, he brings a new visual and thematic unity to fiction films. He seems to owe very little to traditional moviemaking and (unlike Bergman) almost nothing to the theater. One gets the feeling that he didn't even have to break away, that -- and this may be possible because of how films are produced in Sweden -- he developed in his own way, out of photography. Although the leading characters are played by Liv Ullmann and Max von Sydow, it's almost impossible to discuss their performances; there don't seem to be any performances. Ullmann and von Sydow move in and out of frame, courting, marrying, having children, They belong to the region and to the life there, and after a while you forget that this is the same Liv Ullmann you've seen in the Bergman films...Troell's celebration of air and trees and water includes the people with the land, and, despite the initial human gloom, the sensual passion of his imagery incorporates those people. American directors who love the outdoors usually love vast spaces; their characters move through them; nature is used for beautiful backgrounds. Troell loves nature for itself -- nature, weather, changes of light. The film provides what those great descriptive passages in novels used to provide -- a sense of what the natural environment did to the characters. The shipboard ordeals are devastating because, suddenly, we see those people cut off from everything that has formed them, trapped and sick, turned into fools -- greenhorns -- and we begin to feel the whack and terror of that culture shock experienced by first-generation Americans... Troell composes every shot as if it were to be his last, but at the same time he expands our notions of what screen lyricism is, because he's solemn and yet lyrical, disciplined yet rapturous. He will not be hurried. He gives the shimmer of the sun on sails equal weight with the lice and scurvy below decks, the redness of a paddle wheel equal weight with a misplaced child; he pauses to frame a magic image of the lighted riverboat at night. The imagery is intense, naturally lighted but frequently soaked in bright, deep color. Troell has a ravening appetite; it almost seems as if he loved nature so much he wanted to plunder it all...
Although Jan Troell, the director, cinematographer, editor, is in command of the modern vocabulary of film techniques, he's unencumbered by the vices of commercial films: all those thousands of forms of telegraphic emphasis, most of them inherited from the theater, that commercial films have done to death... He is more open and generous than the other Swedish directors whose work we see -- so generous that the small flaws are canceled out. There is nothing prosy in Troell's large, steady embrace; he has a sense of the justice owed to people and the homage owed to nature...Troell is a film master whose films are overflowing yet calm and balanced; they're rapturously normal.
-- Pauline Kael, Reeling (link)
No English subs for the extras, and the other extras subs haven't been spell-checked. Extras include Painting with Images (56:36), Double Screening (2:24), Press Conference (2:44), and Premiere (1:01).
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Subtitles:included: Danish, German, Finnish, Norwegian, Brazilian Portuguese, Swedish, Turkish, and Serbian srt's
Thanks to the original uploader