Best Picture This: The 1973 Academy Awards- The Emigrants

Karl and Kristina embrace in The Emigrants

It’s 1972, we’re traveling by ox drawn cart, ship, horse driven wagon, a Mississippi steamboat, and on foot. Where are we headed? Where are we bound? The 1973 Academy Awards where the nominees for Best Picture were:


The Godfather



and today’s movie, The Emigrants.

Here’s the trailer:

History at a Glance 1972

June 17- Five men were arrested at the Watergate Hotel breaking into the Democratic National Committee’s offices. They would be found guilty of illegal wiretapping, burglary, and conspiracy. It’s the beginning of the end for the Nixon presidency. (See: All the President’s Men, White House Plumbers)

August 31- Bobby Fischer beats Boris Spassky in Reykjavík, Iceland to become World Chess Grandmaster. He’s the first American to hold the title. Almost fifty years later, after a series of legal issues with the United States, Fischer was granted Icelandic citizenship. He’s buried in a small cemetery south ofReykjavík. (See: Pawn Sacrifice, Searching for Bobby Fischer)

The Farley Award

A scene of a field and a wall in The Emigrants.

I’m stealing a page from Mike Cavaliere for this column’s Farley Award, which means I’m going to cheat and choose more than one great moment. The Farley Awards go to the cinematography of this three hour epic. Almost every shot, especially the long shots, have the look and feel of painting. It may be a cliche but saying that they’re like a picture come to life is very accurate. Cinematographer Jan Troell, who also directed and edited The Emigrants, used only natural light to compose his shots. The pay off is brilliant. I found myself lost in scenes and having to backtrack because I had stopped paying attention to focus on the details of a shot.

The Golden Take

The Emigrants is a three hour epic. At times it can feel like a three hour movie. For the most part the run time isn’t an issue. You’ll be lost not only in the cinematography, but in the story, the characters, and their lives. Max von Sydow and Liv Ullmann’s chemistry is obvious as it was in the two other movies they starred in together.

Karl and Kristina's young daughter lies in repose.

The Emigrants follows Karl Oskar (Max von Sydow), Kristina (Liv Ullmann), Kristina’s brother Robert (Eddie Axberg), her father, children, and their lives on their farm. It’s a rough life. Every day is a struggle to make ends meet and most of the time they’re getting further into debt. The decision to leave for America comes when Karl and Kristina’s young daughter dies.

The voyage to America is long and arduous. We see lice infestations, borderline starvation, deaths and burials at sea, and dreams coming to fruition. We have to see all of this, we have to share their pain so when Kris and his family reach America we can share their joy too. It all pays when Karl finds a piece of land to call home.

Keep it or Kick It

The Emigrants is not for the 90 minute and under movie crowd. It feels like it drags in some places. At those few moments it may seem like a slog to get through. But for any of its faults the sum of the movie is absolutely incredible. The Emigrants is an absolute keeper.

Karl sits down under a tree after finding the perfect piece of land.