When Eric Pope was asked to direct The Immigrants, a new film based on Swedish author Wilhelm Moberg’s masterpiece, the reaction was somewhat tepid.
The four-volume work on a Swedish entourage, who emigrated in 1849 from Småland in Sweden to Minnesota, is one of the greatest literary treasures of the Swedes.
Not enough with that. Director Jean Troel’s film adaptation of the books in the 1970s is considered a masterpiece in the history of European cinema. Liv Ullmann and Max von Sydow starred in the film, which was nominated for five Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Actress.
Furthermore, ABBA members Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson are behind the Swedish musical version, titled “Kristina från Duvemåla”, which went on to win.
One does not go unpunished
A new movie based on the books had been planned for several years when director Eric Pope’s fashion request came two years ago.
– My reaction was: “Are they sure they would? At least I didn’t think I would.”
The decision to accept the prestigious project was not an easy one for Poppe. And rightly so.
The previous film is considered an intense and solid work, and one of the greatest masterpieces of European film. I was wondering if we really needed a new movie. One thing is to jump after Wirkola. Another thing is jumping after drooling. One does not go unpunished.
Bob got a chance to think again. Then he threw himself on all four of Wilhelm Mauberg’s novels: “Immigrants”, “Immigrants”, “Settlers” and “The Last Letter to Sweden”.
Much of the events in the books revolve around the young couple Karl Oskar and Christina and their children, who dream of a better life than they have in Sweden. Poppe was fascinated by history and the way Moberg depicts their hopes and dreams.
– I found out when I read them that this is a story about the world today.
In the Jan Troell movie adapted from the 1970s, Carl Oscar was the main character. But Bob won’t make one remake In Troell, he will provide a new interpretation of Moberg’s work.
Bob prefers to focus on Christina, as a parallel to immigrant women today. It’s no secret that Christina struggles to integrate in the United States. And Bob sat down to meet immigrant women to understand.
Immigrants are often clearly visible, have at least two and three jobs. We hardly see the women coming. This is a great opportunity to highlight this story. Not least in the Nordic countries with polarized controversy. Whether you are for immigration or you are against. But often one doesn’t know enough about the people they’re talking about, and that’s where art can play a role, says Pope.
In Sweden, the distinction between novels and films has become difficult over time and together they form a creative narrative. True or false, it has become Sweden’s great story about where Swedes come from. The long journey from injustice and poverty to freedom and abundance today.
It is not uncommon to refer to “immigrants” in the refugee debate, as a reminder that Swedes were once forced to leave their country for economic and religious reasons, said Malin Olgren, literature editor for the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter.
Swedish director Jan Troel’s “Expatriate” films are among the most exported abroad. And through them, Troyle came to Hollywood. According to Ullgren, there is great skepticism among Swedish film critics about a new film.
– What would Poppe do that Troell didn’t do everything? At the same time, Poppe is seen as an established and good director, so his film will of course still have a chance to impress skeptics, says Ullgren.
She thinks there would be a lot of fuss if he took a lot of liberties with the novels.
– He can, of course, subtract, but add nothing to the course of events.
I got the packaging
Working with a new interpretation of a large work like this has its limitations. Poppe witnessed this while working on the film.
One of the biggest challenges was dealing with the most “sacred” moments or elements in Moberg’s history, says Poppe.
Some of the iconic elements have stuck with the audience through both narratives and other representations of this popular tale.
At first, Poppe found no place for more of these elements in the film. But then packaging from the producers and rights holders waited for Moberg’s universe, and the items had to go back in history.
– We struggled between the free interpretation of Moberg’s history and the absolute requirements of some elements that we simply could not solve.
After 10 months in the chopping room, Poppe nett has finished chopping. A little voice work and small choices is all that is said before the 2021 edition of “The Emigrants” premieres to the world on the first day of Christmas.
Last week, the film was shortlisted for Sweden’s contribution to the Academy Award in the Best International Film category.
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