Pelle the Conqueror

(Pelle erobreren)
Denmark/Sweden 1987. Dir: Bille August. 157 min. DCP

“A towering achievement … An exhilarating experience unlikely to be forgotten.”
KEVIN THOMAS, LA TIMES

30th ANNIVERSARY RESTORATION | An award-season juggernaut that collected two of cinema’s most prized trophies — the Palme d’Or and the Foreign-Language Oscar — Pelle the Conqueror was the first unqualified masterpiece of Danish director Bille August (who’d win a second Palme d’Or for the Ingmar Bergman-penned The Best Intentions), and a magisterial showcase for screen legend Max von Sydow’s extraordinary craft. Adapted from the first volume of Martin Andersen Nexø’s turn-of-the-20th-century novel, the film centres on an elderly farmhand and widower (von Sydow) who, with his young son Pelle (Pelle Hvenegaard), emigrates from impoverished Sweden to rural Denmark in hopes of a new, prosperous life. Employed but cruelly mistreated as lower-class labourers, the father and son lean on each other to endure. With lush, location cinematography by Jörgen Persson (who previously shot Lasse Hallström’s evocative My Life as a Dog) and a heartbreaking, Oscar-nominated turn by von Sydow, August’s prestigious epic is a tour de force of humanist cinema.


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REVIEWS

“A vividly re-created, minutely-detailed panorama ... Pelle has a Dickensian appreciation for narrative ... Max von Sydow’s performance is in a category by itself.”

New York Times | full review