Based on the novel by Martin Andersen Nexo, Pelle the Conqueror (1987) is a highly commendable film for which director-writer Bille August deserves praise.
Lasse and his son Pelle, impoverished, emigrate from Sweden to Denmark to find work. Max von Sydow ably, wonderfully exhibits every ounce of Lasse’s simplicity, desolation, false bravado, indignation, and contentment. Pelle Hvenegaard is pleasingly true (and handsome) as young Pelle. All the elements of nature appear in the film and awe us when they don’t chill us. The work concerns the human tendency to settle, or being constrained to settle, for that which is onerous or humiliating—or simply knowable. Not in every instance is there settling, but certainly the act goes on; and it can be heartbreaking.
(In Danish and Swedish with English subtitles)