The Emigrants

The Emigrants is a 1971 Swedish film directed by Jan Troell and starring Max von Sydow, Liv Ullmann, Eddie Axberg and Allan Edwall. The screenplay is by Bengt Forslund and Troell. It tells the story of poor Swedes who emigrate from Småland, Sweden, to Minnesota in the mid-19th century. The film depicts hardships in Sweden and on the journey and is based on the first two novels of The Emigrants series by Vilhelm Moberg — The Emigrants (1949) and Unto a Good Land (1952).


In 1844 in the Swedish province of Småland, the Nilsson family lives in Ljuder Parish, on a small farm in the woods at Korpamoen. The eldest son, Karl Oskar, inherits the farm from his father Nils, after meeting a girl named Kristina Johansdotter, who becomes his bride. She moves to Korpamoen to live with him and his parents. In the following years, Karl Oskar and Kristina start a family, starting with Anna, followed by Johan, Marta and Harald. The family struggles with rock filled fields, poor weather and natural disasters, leaving them with insufficient funds and food. Kristina rebukes Karl oskar for his irreligious attitude. Karl Oskar's daydreaming and bookish younger brother, Robert, tired of being overworked and beaten regularly as an indentured farmhand at a nearby farm, first comes up the idea of emigrating to America. He first asks his friend Arvid, his fellow farmhand, to come with him. Arvid eagerly agrees, but the pair's hopes are dashed when they realize they do not have the money for their passage. Robert confronts Karl Oskar about selling his share of the farm, only to find out that Karl Oskar himself had been considering the idea of emigrating with his family. Despite the potential for a better life, Kristina is unenthusiastic, not wanting to leave her homeland as well as being fearful of risking the lives of their four young children on the ocean. However, the family loses Anna after, hungry and resentful at not being given food, gorges herself on uncooked porridge, damaging her stomach. Devastated by this loss, Kristina agrees to Karl Oskar's plan to emigrate and they begin preparing for the journey.