Sometimes I stumble on a movie which all of the sudden turns out to be a real masterpiece. Pelle the Conqueror really surprised me – touching story told in a unique way. Pelle is a boy from Sweden who immigrates to Denmark with his dad after the death of his mother. They are both full of hope – hope for a new beginning – and there is a scene in the boat on which Pelle wants to hear over and over about the new country they will be living at:
Tell me about it again, papa. It’s very different this new country.
– You’ll hardly…
– You’ll hardly believe your eyes. They put raisins in the pork roastand butter on your bread…Some places they put butter on your bread.- And kids are free all day.
– Yes, Pelle, yes. Wages are so incredibly high, that kids…That kids don’t have to work.
It sounds too good to be true – may be not for you – but imagine what those words meant for a boy who is used to live in a missy , probably due to the hard life he had to live after the death of his mother. As soon as the boat reaches the shore the reality of this new world came out of the dream mist. Finding employment is not as easy especially considering the age of the Pele’s father and the fact that he has a small boy with him. At the end they are offered an employment at a large farm, but find the life would present many challenges to them.
The acting is very good – the young Pelle Hvenegaard who plays the role of Pelle is so good that one can thing that he has a dozen of movies in his carrier and probably that is the reason for which 2 years after the movie is released he wins two award for the Best Young Actor in 1988 at the European Film Awards and for Best Young Actor in a Foreign Film in a Foreign Filmat the young artists awards for his role in Pelle the Conqueror.
I saw an excellent description of the acting of Pelle Hvenegaard in a review written by John Simon :
Pelle Hvenegaard won out over four thousand other boys for this part, which he well deserved. He may be almost too good-looking, but he doesn’t coast on that; he acts with an open, unaffected straightforwardness, as innocent as a freshly unwrapped pack of butter.
I watched this movie with constant hope to see happiness in the eyes of Pelle and the moments in which he felt happy was shining like a real diamonds surrounded by the dust of the harsh live he had to deal with. Although Pelle is often refused friendships from the local Danish boys he shows his good heart befriending a boy who has some physical disability – and their friendship through a little odd at times shows that people can find someone to care for , even in the toughest places.
Pelle the Conqueror is classic movie and although some may thing that the story gets a bit depressing at times I recommend it to anyone who treasure excellent coming of age movies.
The book can be downloaded for free from the web site of Project Gutenberg