Sweet Land (2005) - full transcript

As Inge buries her husband Olaf on their Minnesota farm in 1968, we relive her life story as she tells her grown grandson about how she arrived from Germany in 1920 as Olaf's postal bride and of the obstacles they overcame in order to marry...

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That's too heavy for traveling.

- Do you speak any English?
- English?

- What's the matter with you?
- Come on. Over here.

Ja. Ja. Olaf, come on.

- I thought she understood.
- Nice day though.

Those fancy shoes are not for traveling.

Be happy. Uh—

Olaf, how do you—

- Lykkelig.
- "Lykkelig" is happy?

- Yeah.
- I thought "glede" was happy.

No. That's more like "delighted."


Ja. Ja.

[Labored Breathing]

- "Ducky"?
- [Ducks Squawking]


- [Breathing Stops]
- Grandma?



I'm sorry for your loss, Lars.

I can pay you 2.2 million...

and put up 1,200 homes on this land.

It's what your grandparents would want.

- Lars!
- Dad told me to bike over
and wait for the contract guys.

I didn't want to wake you.


- Come in.
- Nah, nah, I don't want to take my boots off.

Hanoi's Vietnam News
Agency said a protest message about it...

has been sent to the International
Control Commission for Vietnam.

The president has been resting up after
10 strenuous days of his Far Eastern tour.

Tomorrow, he and Mrs. Johnson begin their
official two-day visit in Bangkok itself.

You're up.

Olaf Torvik was a caring, giving man...

and I know we'll always remember him.

- He came from Norway in 19—
- Very peaceful.

- 1910?
- It has lovely sunlight.

And homesteaded his farm
the next year.

He cleared the land
with the resolution...

- Welcome, everyone.
- of a pioneer.

A true settler in the best sense
of the word...

creating civilization
out of the wilderness.

- Inge?
- Most of all, we remember his great love for Inge...

- Did you make this pie?
- his wife of 48 years.

No, this is not mine.

You know that pie?

Olaf died, Frandsen.

You remember?

Mom, Palmquists are coming to pick up
the casket for the burial tomorrow.

- Now?
- Yeah.

Where does he stay for the night?

I suppose down at the—

I don't know what they do, Mom.

He belongs here with me.

Well, that doesn't make any sense.

I can't stay here.
We've got the chores—

I don't need you to stay.
He belongs here though.


What's filling your head?



I'm not sure what to do.


Get yourself and Frandsen a piece of pie.

It's you?

Why are "lykkelig"...

and "glede" different?

Different kinds of happy.

It's really good.

Different kinds of happy.

"I... could...

eat... a horse."

"I could...

eat a horse."

"I could eat a horse."

"A horse."

"I could eat a horse."

But English now.


No English, me.


"Dear Elsa"?
"Dear Elsa"? Else?

- ElseJorgensdatter.
- ElseJorgensdatter.

Inge. Inge Altenberg.


- Here.
- Great.

Just sign this. There.


Do you have farms in the area?



Do you know about our organization?
Well, you should.

'Cause it's in your best interest.
We are suffragists.

- Immigration?
- It should interest you.

- Suffragists.
- Suffragists.

Yeah. We're unified to ratify
the 19th Amendment to the Constitution—

the American Constitution—
so everyone can vote, especially women.

That's what it's for. Here you go. Just sign this.

Thank you. [Chuckles]
Just sign your name.

This is very important.

We all have to able to decide on how
we participate in our community, right?

We were opposed to the war, of course...

but we don't try to say that too loudly here
because people might get the wrong idea.

Might think that you're a sympathizer,
or something worse— a lousy German.

- Yes.
- Yeah.


Mister, you... read?

Yeah, sure.

Uh— "Dear Else...

I write to you with bad news."

Uh— "The bank has foreclosed...

"on my farm, and I have been evicted.

"I hope you receive this letter in time.
Do not come now.

Jostein Amundsen."


Do you understand this?

Do you understand this?

Amundsen— no, no.

He's—Amundsen is not here.

He's not coming.
He's not here.


Come with me.
I can help you. Come on.

Come on. Come here.

This way.


This way.

Are you from Snåsa? Snåsa!

Ja. Inge. Snåsa.

- You are from Snåsa?
- Ja! Snåsa! Inge!

- You are here.
- Ja.

- Hello.
- Hello.

- Hello.
- Hello. Inge.


It's locked!

I know!

Inge from Snåsa.

Olaf Torvik?



Long trip, eh?

Ships are hideous.
Give me dry land any day.

I was just five years old
when we came across.

- When I came, they checked us for sickness at Ellis Island.
- Ellis Island?

Yeah. All the doctors were German.

All they said was "tak."

Working in the United States of America,
you'd think they'd learn English. Tak.

They rolled my eyelids back
with a matchstick.

Did they do that to you?

We didn't have a picture of you,
so we didn't know what you look like.

Inge from Snåsa!
You could've looked like anything, eh?

I think you ought to like waking up
in the morning and looking at your wife.

I said to him, "If we don't know what
she looks like, she shouldn't come."

We should have a photo first.

You're ducky.

I got it.

- No regrets!
- "Ducky"?

Uh, it's a made-up word, like, uh—

It means "good."

- Duck, good.
- Yeah.

Yeah. Anyways, uh, here is the place.

I'll get it.


That's too heavy for traveling.

Do you speak any English?

- English?
- Ah. That much.

Deutsch? Talk Deutsch?

No! No. No German around here.

Welcome. Welcome, Inge.

Inge from Snåsa.

- I'm Minister Sorrensen. Welcome.
- Hello.

- Frandsen.
- Hello.

Olaf. Olaf Torvik.
Are you ready?


Ja. Olaf Torvik.

- Olaf?
- Mm-hmm.

Uh, Frandsen. Alvin Frandsen.

- Alvin Frandsen.
- Just Frandsen.

Just Inge.

I thought she understood.

Come in. Come in.

Inge, even though
you've never met this man...


are you ready to get married?

No, no. Only English in
the church. Only English.

Um, she only speaks this much English.

- Uh—
- Well—


Spricht Deutsch?


English only in the church. English.

Your parents sent you a girl to be married,
they didn't tell you she was German?

- I didn't know.
- How could you not know?

My parents wrote me that there was a girl
who would be good to marry.

We were at war with Germany.

Yes, Frandsen?

Martin Luther was German.


She is not one of us.

We speak a common language, we have
a common background, common culture.

She is not one of us.

Do— Do you have papers? Papers?

- Immigration?
- Immigration?


But this says that you're
a member of the Socialist party.

- Ja.
- She's a member of the Socialist party!

Olaf! This is—

- No, no. No, I'm sorry.
- No?

There can be no wedding ceremony today.
Not today. No.

What you need to do immediately
is to go and seeJudge Sundby.


There will be no ceremony
this afternoon at all.

The judge. That's all the way
over in the county seat.

It'll be okay. Uh—

Maybe we can stay with my wife's cousin.
You hungry? Hungry?

Uh, I could eat a horse.

Come, Inge Altenberg, to eat.

Ja, Olaf. Judge Sundby.

Ja. Okay. Thank you.

Hey, look.

My cousin, Hanse, lived there
after the bank took away his farm.

After a week, he came out
onto those steps and blew his head off.

- Boom!
- Boom?


German. What were
you thinking of, Torvik?

I didn't know.

With a name like Altenberg,
how could you not know?

- Where's that herring?
- I didn't—

Mmm. Did you hear the one...

about the man who went
to the man with no pants?

- No.
- Frandsen, how is the crop?

- Good. Good.
- Good. And the family?

Like the crop.

She doesn't look German.

Pretty eyes.

But bewitching.


That's the giveaway— those eyes.

Mmm, judge?

Uh, banker.

But he also owns
the, uh, grain elevator...

and the insurance.

My friend— Um—

My wife's... cousin.


That'll be the day. But I do own
the only steam tractor in the state.

Full of hot air.

But we will go to the judge tomorrow.
For sure, for sure, for sure.

"For sure, for sure"?

Means, "for sure, for sure, for sure."

Never bless the day until it's done.

Charming for farming,
but in business...

you've got to make plans.

Business and farming don't mix.

I'll get the bags from the car.

How's the crop, really?

Really good.

It had better be.

- Okay?
- Okay.


"Women are considered chattel
of the husband or father, and it is assumed...

that citizenship is the same
as the husband or father."

Immigrations Code 623.3.B.

We just want to be married.

I don't know who this woman
is without the correct papers.

So give us the papers.
We'll go home. I have work to do.

I didn't write 623.3.B.


- Can we see the judge?
- Judge.

She'll have to take
a literacy test...

and for that she'll need
to know English.

- Was that Norwegian she was speaking?
- She is German.


I'll see if the judge is available.

Anyways, the judge says we have
to be careful about this sort of thing.

- What sort of thing?
- German nationals.

German nationals engage in prostitution,
they encourage polygamy...

they harbor dangerous
political convictions.

Are you aware of
the Espionage Act of 1916?

You think she's a spy?

Well, I'll tell you
what's in her favor—

She's not Chinese.

Nice day though.

Olaf, come on.

Help the lady.


- Ducky.
- Ah, ducky.

Hey, let's make a photo.

- No, I have work.
- Oh, shut your trap about the work, Olaf.

And give me the whole shooting match with
the Kodak dingus. You know it won't work for me.

It's just here. You got it?

We're gonna make a photo. Uh—

- Fotographie?
- Yeah, yeah. Come on, Olaf.

Come on.


- Uh—
- Move your hands, Frandsen.

Here. I want your mug, Olaf.

Those fancy shoes are not for traveling.

Uh, be happy.
Uh, Olaf, how do you—

- Lykkelig.
- "Lykkelig" is happy?

- Yeah.
- I thought "glede"was happy.

Uh, that's more like "delighted."

Oh. Happy. Delighted, eh?

- Happy. Delighted.
- What's the difference?

- There's no difference.
- So, why have two words then?


Happy. Delighted.

What about "ducky"?
That's a good word.

- Ducky? Ja.
- Ducky. [Chuckles]

Uh, now, Olaf, put your mug here.

You balled up. I only have one piece of film.


- Not ducky.
- Not ducky?

No. Come on.

No, no, no.

Uh, no. You, uh, sleep.
Olaf, tell her.

Frandsen? No.

Olaf, no.

Are you sure you want
to marry this one?

Maybe she's right. She just wants a bathroom.
What difference does it make?

Do you have any idea
what your neighbors would say?

Where will you go to church? You'd have to
drive clear to Minneapolis to buy your seed.

Goddamn this whole goddamn mess!

Until we get married, you go with Frandsen.

You are, uh—

You are—

- Behaving badly.
- You are behaving badly.

You are the one who is doing that thing
that you are telling me I am doing.

Okay, okay, okay.

Okay, okay.

Olaf! You gotta start my car!

Inge, come on.

Come on.

Inge from Snåsa!

Welcome, Inge. Oh!

I'm Marta, Frandsen's wife.
Call me Brownie.

- Brownie.
- Brownie. Welcome.

I'll bet you need a bath.

- Bad?
- Bath.

- Bad.
- Hey! It's a hot day. We all need a bath bad.

Especially after all you've been through.

Uh, Inge, a bigger, better,
faster way to farm.

- Big—
- Bigger, better, faster.

- Bigger, better, faster.
- That's right.

You hungry?

- Hungry?
- I could eat a horse.

We can find that.

- After you.
- Where's Olaf?

Uh, Inge.

Her mother's mother, uh— German.

- Uh, Tysk.
- Deutsch?

No. No. I'm an American.
My mother's mother was German.

My mother's father was Irish.
My father had Ojibwa blood.

But l— I'm an American.

Mmm... tysk?

No, no. All clean. All clean.

American. Uh, her mother's mother—

Yeah, mother's—


Okay. Who would like
a ride on the tractor?

Me! Me!

- Brownie, will ya—
- Yeah. Start the tractor? Sure.


Come on, darling. You can be first.
You got five miles of road on you.

- No. Okay.
- Okay.

Suit yourself.

All right, sweetie pops.

Go to Mommy.
There you go.

Come on.
Good girl. Inge?

A mighty fortress is our God

A bulwark never failing

Our helper
He amid the flood

Of mortal ills prevailing

For still our ancient foe

All right, no batter now.
No batter.

Good eye! Good eye! Good eye!

Olaf, go eat something. Get some muscle.

I got the ball.
Here you go.

All right.
Look at this big bat.

Oh, left-handed.


All right.


That was perfect.
What more do you want for a pitch?

I know it's not a horse, but—

Uh, baseball.

Ah. Aha.

There we are.

See? Isn't that pretty?

I know this.

"You're trying...

"to pull...

my leg."

Do you have pie in Germany?

Uh— Pie? No.

We can have a slice after it's cooled.


So, uh...

you have no family left?

Now alone, yes.

Were you married? Married?

No. Not, uh, papers.

Not citizenship.

No, no, no. No.
Were you married before...

in Germany— married?

No. No.

Um, men?

- Men?
- No.

No men.


Have some pie.


Oh, this is good.

- Mmm.
- Mm-hmm.


Hey, hey.
You can't be here.

From tonight.

- You slept here?
- Ja.

Oh, God.

The judge.

They said it is forbidden.





Ja. Hello.

You took a bath?

Tung— heavy.


My barn.

I have music.
You like music?

From my papa.

Uh, I have music.

For help— building.

I bring music?


For hay.

- For hay.
- For hay?



Oh. Uh, cow?

- Milk.
- Milk?

- Butter.
- Butter?





- Ham.
- Ham.

Hello, hams.

- Horse.
- Horse.

- Hest?
- Yeah, hest. Horse.


Inge. Olaf Torvik.

Sometimes I call him "Alvin."


Like friend, Frandsen?

Yeah, like friend.

You have better, faster, bigger?

Oh. Frandsen's tractor?

- Faster, better?
- No.

Farming and banking don't mix.

They'll call you free-love Bolsheviks
like those Red Socialists.

I said she could come.

It's my job to feed her,
give her a place to stay.

- And anyway, who cares?
- Well, you should. It's your people.

Minister Sorrensen, the judge—

- I'm talking about your neighbors.
- I will sleep in the barn.

Harmo, uh,
wh-wh-what are you doing?

Cataloging for the auction.

- I'm not having an auction.
- I'm having the auction.

Hey, those are my things!

Not if you don't pay
your mortgage.

Frandsen, it's not personal.
It's just business.

I warned you all last year,
you were late with your mortgage.

But we're third cousins.

My crop's still in the ground.

This is our home.
We'll pay after the harvest.

You're still late
from last year's harvest.

Hey! Hey!

Let her have it.
She drops a new one every year.

You've got just a month.

I've got four other auctions
before yours.


Come here.
Come on.

You know what?
I bought a wooden whistle...

but it wooden whistle.

So then I bought a steel whistle...

but it steel wooden whistle.

And then I got a tin whistle,
and now I tin whistle.

Go in and help your mom.


This dresser is for you,
for your things.



I will sleep in the barn.

I will sleep in the barn.

Sleep in the barn. I understand.

- Inge Altenberg?
- Ja?


Uh, "n-naken"—

Naked. Naked.



Ah. Identification?

Silas, you know me.

Well, protection for you.

Now they're talking, they'll bring
the mail right to your house...

put it in a box on your road
where anything can happen to it.

Anybody could read it.

It'll be public information, your mail.

- It'll save me the trip to town.
- You say that now.

No foreign language letters
leave the country.


- We've been at war with Germany.
- They keep telling me.

I thought we won.

Talk to your minister.

Church-to-church letters—
they may work different.

What, uh, town in Germany?


I know a minister in Osnabrück.

I could write to him,
and he could send us...

the necessary documentation
for your application.

Hmm? And in the meantime,
you could work on your English.


Well, I could help you.

Let's see.
Let's see.

- Keats?
- Keats, yes.

Yeah? Keats?

"Endymion," part one.

"A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:

Its loveliness increases,"

But, "It will never pass into nothingness;

"but still will keep a bower quiet for us...

- "and a sleep full of sweet dreams...
- "Full of sweet dreams...

- "and health...
- "and health...

- and quiet breathing."
- and quiet... 'breathink"'?


- "Breathing"?
- "Breathing."

- "Breathing."
- That's very good.

- Nein! Naked!
- Sorry.

What are the colors of the flag?

Red. R-E— Hold this. "D."

- What is Independence Day?
- W-H—

- What is the Magna Carta?
- Huh?

Independence from who?


- Hello?
- Hello.


No. Pheasant.


- I don't dance.
- Not dance. Waltz.


- Good.
- Good.


Dancing in the full light of—

I was hunting.

Hunting? Huh.

Hunting. Yes, of course.

You were hunting.

This coffee is so black.

Inge— she makes good coffee.

Not like the women in church.

It's too black.

Too many beans.

Waste of beans.

- Does she make you coffee often?
- Yeah.

Uh, no.

Um, uh—

Do you find comfort here?

Mmm, uh—

Uh, good here.
Not like Frandsen house.

Where do you sleep?

I sleep in the barn.

Uh, this.

Oh, yes. These are the letters
from the minister in Osnabrück.

The papers? Immigrations?


You're dancing together.
You're living together.

God only knows what else.

- What else?
- I sleep in the barn.

Your Germaness is—
It's a bad influence.

Your Germaness—
it's a disruption to my community.

Your Germaness—
it makes coffee that is too black.

It is harvest time.

A time when we must work together...

prosper together, or suffer alone.

Let me read to you from
Corinthians, chapter five...

verses nine through 13.

"I wrote you in my letter
not to associate with immoral people;

"not to associate with any so-called brother
if he is an immoral person...

"or covetous, or an idolater,
or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler.

Those who are from outside God judges."

I am troubled.

I believe in a God who believes
in love and compassion...

and I believe in a God
who believes in forgiveness.

But I also find comfort in a moral code.

I find comfort in a righteous path...

and I believe in a God
who teaches me to walk along it.

And when Inge Altenberg...

first arrived in our community...

I was fearful of her differences...

but I had hoped that she
would join us on our path.

Inge Altenberg and Olaf Torvik—

they're not married.

Now I find them dancing together...

sharing the same quarters,
perhaps the same bed.

And she is making coffee for him
in the morning.

You cannot choose to live like that...

and also to join with us.

The rest of you...

do not allow your good lives
to be poisoned by these two.

I'm not listening to what
the minister's talking about.

- You've been my friend ever since you got here.
- You can't harvest alone.

- You need these people. Harmo's steam thresher—
- It'll all work out.

Frandsen, you've thrown yourself into debt with
your damn Ford, big tractor and magic lantern.

- It'll work out.
- You're not gonna have a farm much longer.

Brownie's gonna have to work in a factory
for the rest of her life.

- You're trying to pick a fight now.
- You're not a farmer.

You're a fool.
Your bigger, better, faster—

You believes God?

Something makes the crops come up.

Ja. But not church.

Not Jesus.


- Smell.
- Smell, yes. Smell this.

And sun—


- Feel.
- Ja. Feel the sun.

Feel this.

You have Träume?


Dreams. Yes, you have?

I have work.
I don't have dreams.

Grouse have dreams.


Grouse, pheasants—

all have dreams.

But not you.

Ducks don't have dreams.
It gets cold. They fly south.


I go.


Ducks dream. I know.

Watch the ankles.

Six, seven, eight, nine, 10.
Good. Come.

Six, seven, eight, nine, 10.
Good. Come.

Here, take.
Put the bottoms down together.

Take. Good.
Now lay them down.

Here. You tie in the middle. Good.

One, two, three, four...

five, six, seven, eight...

nine, 10, to a hundred.

Come. Tie this one.
Here, I'll put the string. Quickly.



I know.

I do. You go.

Good work.

Good horse.

Come! Inge!



Inside, I found a Griswold combination
meat and food chopper...

a Richardson perfect baby's crib—

Look at that.
They're auctioning the baby's crib.

And at this time,
I'll turn it over to Palmer...

- and he'll give you the specifics on the property.
- Well, as many of you know—

Look at the suit this guy's wearing.
Any of you guys own a suit like that?

...the condition of this mortgage.

And, uh, as of now, I will give you the legal
description of the property to be sold.

It's 160 acres, more or less...

Iocated on the northeast quarter
of section 11...

township 45, range 30—

How many kids does he have?

- He's got nine kids.
- Nine kids.

Thank you, Palmer.
We're ready to start the auction.

That's that Socialist.
Get him out of here.

And I got 2,000.
Now 2, 100.

2,000. Twenty-one, 21.
$2,000. Twenty-one, 21, two.

Twenty-one to two, two.
Twenty-one to two.

Twenty-one to two, two, two.
Twenty-one to two, two. Three.

Twenty-two to three,
three, three. Twenty-two to three.

Twenty-two to three. Four.
Twenty-three to four, four, four.

- 2,500.
- Twenty-five to six. Twenty-five to six, six, six.

- Come with me.
- Huh, what?

- We just wanna talk to this guy.
- Come on.

Gentlemen, watch. This is how it starts.
The law and the money together.

- This is it, right here.
- Take this guy down to the road, okay?

- Watch how it starts!
- The road!

Thirty-two to three, three, three.
Thirty-two to three.

Thirty-two to three.
Thirty-three to four.

Thirty-three to four, four, four.

- 3,500.
- Thirty-five to six. Thirty-five to six, six, six.

Thirty-five to six. Thirty-five to six.
Thirty-five to six, six, six.

Thirty-five to six.
Thirty-five to six.


That gentleman in the crowd
has just bid $4,500.


The bidding is at 5,000, gentlemen.


5,500. Do I hear that correctly? 5,500.



- 6,200—
- 7,000!

The bidding stands at 7,000.
Do I hear any more bids?

Seventy-one. Seventy-one.
7,000, 71, 71? None?

Hold on a minute. You can
still get in on the bidding.

Going once at 7,000.
Twice, 7,000.

7,000 for the third time.

Sold at 7,000 to the gentleman right here.

Would you give me your name, please?

- Olaf Torvik.
- Would you step forward here?

I don't have $7,000.

I know.

Is there a problem, Olaf?

This is a legal action.

I don't have 7,000.

- I see you finished your harvest.
- Yeah.

Well, it won't pay for this farm.

I mean, you might get,
what, 1,200 at most?

- I know.
- Where's this rest then?

In a pickle jar somewhere?


Why did you do this then?

I just did it.


You now own Frandsen's farm.

If you don't pay for it in 24 hours...

I'll own your farm, which is
a better piece of land anyway.

But I can help you out.

With a mortgage?


Banking and farming don't mix.

Did you see that socialist
drug out of here?



What—What happen now?

The sheriff come.

Come in.

We kept enough
for winter and planting.

Good night.

I still think your coffee
is a little black.

My eldest—lost in the war.

I'm sorry.

For me, these letters don't
provide sufficient evidence...

that this woman
is not a troublemaker.

We have no birth certificate,
no history.

Just some noncommittal comments
and anecdotes and pleasantries.

I can't take the risk. Not with what
has happened in Russia recently.

- Russia?
- Mmm.

Look at this. This comes from the mind
of a dangerous man.

I found that in church,
tucked in my hymnal.

We just want only to be married.

Come on, Alden.

These are simple farmers
with honest dreams.

Give them the papers
so that they can get married.

I'm sorry.

This is her place now.

How can it be?

You can let it be.

You don't have the papers.

Now... I am married.

I am citizenship.

In my heart, I believe.

But that's not enough, Inge—
in your heart to believe.

It has to be real.

You believes God?

All right.

In my heart.

See you both on Sunday.


This is German food?

No, just food.

Brownie's pie?

My pie.

Your pie.

Me good cooking?




All right.




'A thing of beauty is a joy for ever

"Its loveliness increases,

"it will never pass into nothingness,

"but still will keep a bower quiet for us...

"and a sleep full of sweet dreams...

and health, and quiet breathing."

Knock, knock?

Knock, knock?

Who's there?

- It's a good one.
- Olaf died, Frandsen.

No, Olaf is in the fields.

Can I keep this?


I can't.

I know.


Here it is good.

Grandma, I don't know about this.

I know.



You play baseball this year?

- Yeah.
- Pitching?


I love those games.

Did we eat?

I'll fix you something.

Why did Grandma Inge die?

It happens that way.

Hey, look.
It looks like a heart.

Yeah, it does.

What if I don't remember her?

I have a photograph.