Sweet Land is a movie that caught me completely by surprise. My wife had watched it while I was away, and insisted that I watch it too, as it was one of her new favorite movies. She has good taste, so I assumed it would be good, but I didn't expect to love the movie as much as I did. It's an affectionate look at the courtship of two farm working immigrants in Minnesota, just after WWI. He, Olaf, is Norwegian and has lived in the States for many years. She, Inge, is German, speaks no English whatsoever, and is actually Olaf's mail order bride. Many in the community give her a cold welcome, seeing as we'd just been fighting the Germans, and Olaf begins by protecting her from the acidic response she receives from some folks in town. They slowly, throughout the movie, begin a more proper courtship, which includes her doing such blasphemic things as dancing with Olaf on their porch, in broad daylight, which totally distresses the God-fearing little Lutheran hamlet.
Not only is Sweet Land a lovably thoughtful love story, it's also one of the most strikingly beautiful movies I've ever seen. It's wonderful to watch a film take the time to pay attention to the little things that add up in a relationship. The fleeting looks across the dinner table, the body language from two people trying to find a certain calm in the storm surrounding their lives, the helplessness and even the humor inherent in not speaking the same language as those around you. But to set all that against such breathtaking artistry just makes the movie that much more special. Writer/director Ali Selim's background is in commercials and advertising, which would normally signal the exact opposite of this type of movie, but he takes the care to give us the understated sweetness of the movie. He actually must've used his background to help manipulate the film in a way that gives us the almost unnatural beauty of this movie.
I love the heart of this movie, I love the silent film-like approach to the love story. So many movies these days don't have any clue how to visually tell their story, so it's wonderful to see a movie so intent on giving us so much to visually engage us with. And to engage us with a movie that's not all pretentious art house bullshit, but sweet, lovable romance in an early 20th century setting. It's a movie I wish would have a bigger audience, and one I'd recommend to anyone looking for something gorgeous, good hearted, and completely lovable. Sweet Land is it!