Emigrants, The (1972): One of Few Foreign Films Nominated for Best Picture Oscar, Starring Max Von Sydow and Liv Ullmann

Two Swedish films had received consecutive Best Foreign Language as well as Best Picture Oscar nominations: Jan Troell’s The Emigrants in 1972 and Ingmar Bergman’s Cries and Whispers in 1973.

It is unusual and rather rare for foreign language films to be nominated for the competitive top award, Best Picture.

The Emigrants is an engaging tale, which deals with the emigration of Swedish peasants to America in the mid-nineteenth century.  The saga centers on the trial and tribulations, bravery and faith of the foreign-born people who helped build the U.S. despite harsh and brutal living conditions.

The film stars Liv Ullmann (who received Best Actress Oscar nomination for this film) and Max von Sydow, then at the prime of their careers due to appearances in many excellent Bergman movies. 


Jan Troell was nominated as a director and co-writer of the adapted screenplay.


The epic saga is divided into three (more or less) equal chapters: the departure from Sweden, the voyage overseas, and the journey to and settlement in Minnesota.


To support their growing family and their parents, farmers Karl-Oskar (Von Sydow) and Kristina (Ullmann) live a hard life in Sweden of the 1840s. The winters are brutal, the harvests are often ruined by lack of rain, and time and again, Karl-Oskar’s plow breaks. The marriage is not entirely blissful, either.  The couple argues over sex, which translates into size of their future family.  Karl-Oskar dreams about going to America, where everyone seemingly owns vast and fertile lands.

The acting is superb by all members of the cast, headed by Von Sydov and Ullmann, both of whom were invited to Hollywood to make English-speaking films, albeit with varying degrees of success.

In moments, the harsh, remarkably unsentimental film achieves lyrical tone due to the imagery, which was created and edited by Troell.

The sequel, The New Land, also directed by Troell, was not as emotionally powerful or commercially successful.


Oscar Nominations: 5



Foreign-Language Picture

Director: Jan Troell

Actress: Liv Ullmann

Screenplay (Adapted): Jan Troell, Bengt Forslund


Oscar Awards: None


Oscar Context:

In 1972, the major Oscars were split between Bob Fosse’s musical “Cabaret” and Coppola’s crime saga, “The Godfather.


Karl-Oskar (Max von Sydow)

Kristina (Liv Ullmann)

Robert (Eddie Axberg)

Nils (Svenolof Bern

Marta (Aina Alfredsson)

Danjel (Allan Edwall)

Danjel’s wife (Ulla Smidje)

Ulrika (Monica Zetterlund)

Arvid (Pierre Lindstedt)

Jonas Peter (Hans Alfredson



Music: Erik Nordgren

Art direction: P.A. Lundgren, Berndt Fritiof

Costumes: Ulla-Britt Soderlund

Runing time: 151 Minutes