People are migrating from Sweden to Denmark in search of work. It is here that we are introduced to the father and son duo of Lasse (Max von Sydow) and Pelle (Pelle Hvengaard). Both of them have also migrated from Sweden to Denmark in search of a better life. They end up as labourers and are treated as slaves.
The main story has many other smaller stories intertwined. However, Pelle the Conqueror isn’t about the story as much as it is about the characters’ performances. Von Sydow is just phenomenal as the father of a young boy who harbours hopes of fleeing to America one day. The expressions that he portrays are too good and definitely worth watching. He was nominated for an Oscar for Best Performance in Leading Role and eventually lost it to Dustin Hoffman for his performance in Rain Man. Surely, von Sydow should have received the award.
Von Sydow’s best performance comes in this movie. Bille August has extracted marvellous performances from his cast in Pelle the Conqueror. Even Hvengaard at a young age gives a masterful performance as Pelle. His acting is only second best to von Sydow’s. The adventurism of youth is too well portrayed by Hvengaard. Unlike his father, he dreams of going to America one day in prospect of a better life.
The movie portrays the hardships the emigrant class have to face in a foreign country. They have all come to a foreign land in search of a better life but what they get is worse than what they could have ever imagined. The movie brings out the harsh reality of bygone days when people who migrated to other lands in search of a better life ended up as slaves there.
Without giving away too much of the movie, I would strongly recommend it for the sheer class of acting that is on display. It is a long movie but it is worth the time.