A time traveler in Minnesota?

Just recently I watched the new film adaptation of Wilhelm Moberg’s classic novel Utvandrarna (The Emigrants), released in 2021. First of all, I wonder if we really needed a remake of this novel – Jan Troell’s fantastic film from 1971 still holds up to this day. I’m not going to review the new movie here, but I still want to write a bit about the language in the movie.

I reacted strongly to the way Kristina and Karl-Oskar’s son talked. When Kristina, for example, asks him to pick up his sister Lill-Märta, he replies: “Yes, absolutely!”. I remind you now that the film takes place in the middle of the 19th century, and that the family has emigrated from small Duvemåla in Småland. Answering “Absolutely” instead of answering “Yes” is a very modern habit, barely a few years old. Nothing that belongs to the 19th century at the very least.

Why was this in the movie? As an editor of many scripts, I would have called for such to be cut! This is not credible! If the audience is to be given the illusion that we are in fact in America during the 1860s, the language must also be reasonably contemporary. Instead, I wondered how a guy from the 2020s ended up in Minnesota’s settlement areas. A time traveler visiting? It became comical.

Wilhelm Moberg must have turned in his grave when he heard some of the dialogue in this film. For those who have not read the book, I can say that all dialogues are consistently written in the local Swedish dialect of Småland. Moberg is said to have been heard sobbing and complaining down there where he is buried.

But I also saw another new Swedish film called UFO Sweden (Crazy Pictures, 2022). It also had its share of gaps in the script, but what I still have to love this movie for is its warmth! It’s like one long tribute to small obscure societies and clubs and their members. All these people find their family and a home with each other while scouting for UFOs, playing board games, or cosplaying as fairies and wizards in the forest. Not once did the film make fun of the UFO society, and the creators should be praised for that!

If I have to choose between the blockbuster Utvandrarna (7 Guldbaggar-awards) and UFO Sweden, the choice is simple – I would love to see UFO Sweden again! When the kids in Minnesota talk as if they were flown in directly from Stockholm 2020, we instead in UFO Sweden get an actual Norrköping dialect, and it’s a real joy to hear! The warmth and deep humanity of this film mean that I can actually overlook the gaps in the script. And I want to believe that if I would have gazed around the chairs of the cinema, I would have found Wilhelm Moberg there too, for the sake of warmth and love.

Mattias Kvick is an author and illustrator