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Final Day - Thursday, March 2

Directed by Bille August

Starring Max Von Sydow




(1987) In 19th century Denmark, Swedish immigrant worker Max von Sydow boasts it’s going to be “pork roast with raisins” to son Pelle Hvenegaard. But as the seasons change around their tiny room off the cow pens, 12-year-old Pelle’s eyes widen as he witnesses anti-Swedish prejudice, the kindness of the lady of house, the philandering of the man of the house – which comes to an all-too-fitting end – an abortion/suicidal sacrifice, a dream of America, incest, and a thwarted peasant revolt, and even von Sydow’s dream of coffee in bed on Sundays. Adapting from the first volume of Martin Andersen Nexø’s turn-of-the-20th-century four-volume semi-autobiographical series (de rigeur reading in Scandinavia), August vetted 3,000 children until he found young Hvenegaard (oddly enough, named after the character in the book); the camera of Jörgen Persson (Elvira Madigan) beautifully evokes the changing scenes of nature as the seasons unfold. But Pelle belongs to an at-last-Oscar-nominated von Sydow, effortlessly creating the boastful, subservient, played-out Lasse, at one point summoning up worlds of meaning with just his fly-speckled back.  DCP restoration. Approx. 150 mins.



“A natural, organic epic, and one that opens a window on a meticulously detailed bygone world that, by film’s end, you might feel as though you've visited… The film is eye-popping, wide-screen time travel, shot with sun-burnished care, drenched in details and almost nonchalant about its arresting images… August and his cinematographer Jörgen ‘Lord of Light and Mist’ Persson brought a luxuriant attention to landscape that was rare in the ‘80s and is rarer today; it’s long-lensed and David Lean–esque, harkening back to the muscular on-location imagery of silent-film giants like Mauritz Stiller and Abel Gance. The genuineness of it, uncorrupted by Adobe repainting, can make your eyes water.”
– Michael Atkinson, The Village Voice

“There is not a bad performance in the movie, and newcomer Hvenegaard, never steps wrong in the title role (there is poetic justice in the fact that he actually was named after the novel that inspired this movie). It is Pelle, not Lasse, who is really at the center of the movie, which begins when he follows his father’s dream, and ends as he realizes he must follow his own.”
– Roger Ebert

“A vividly re-created, minutely detailed panorama of a particular time (the turn of the century), place (rural Denmark) and circumstance (life on a great farm) in the course of the four seasons… Has a kind of Dickensian appreciation for narrative, being packed with subplots perceived in the melodramatic terms of an adolescent boy’s imagination… Mr. August brings a cool 20th-century sensibility to what is, at heart, a piece of passionate 19th-century fiction… August and cinematographer Jörgen Persson avoid the picturesque, which is not to say that Pelle isn’t a beautiful film. It’s just that its looks are more than skin deep.”
– Vincent Canby, The New York Times

“The film thus falls in the middle circle of an odd Venn diagram, uniting art-cinema masochists—again, there’s a castration scene here—and folks whose interest in international cinema begins and ends with Oscar’s annual foreign-language slate. […] Von Sydow is capable of exuding dignity even when his character is being constantly robbed of it, which makes him among the most humane performers in cinema. He’s truly heartbreaking here, grumbling about the respect he’s constantly denied and trying to stand up for his bullied son, but finding himself too weak—in body and constitution—to do so.”
– A.A. Dowd, A.V. Club