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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.66:1 Widescreen
  • Swedish PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 2 Discs
FEATURES
  • New introduction by critic and Swedish-film expert John Simon
  • New conversation between film scholar Peter Cowie and director Jan Troell
  • New interview with actor Liv Ullmann
  • To Paint with Pictures, a 2005 documentary on the making of the films, featuring archival footage as well as interviews with Troell, Ullmann, producer and coscreenwriter Bengt Forslund, and actor Eddie Axberg
  • Trailers

The New Land

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Jan Troell
Starring: Max von Sydow, Liv Ullmann
1972 | 202 Minutes | Licensor: Warner Brothers Home Entertainment

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #797
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Release Date: February 9, 2016
Review Date: February 7, 2016

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SYNOPSIS

This monumental mid-nineteenth-century epic from Jan Troell (Here Is Your Life) charts, over the course of two films, a poor Swedish farming family's voyage to America and their efforts to put down roots in this beautiful but forbidding new world. Movie legends Max Von Sydow (The Seventh Seal) and Liv Ullmann (Persona) give remarkably authentic performances as Karl-Oskar and Kristina, a couple who meet with one physical and emotional trial after another on their arduous journey. The precise, minute detail with which Troell depicts the couple's story—which is also the story of countless other people who sought better lives across the Atlantic—is a wonder to behold. Engrossing every step of the way, the duo of The Emigrants and The New Land makes for perhaps the greatest screen drama about the settling of America.

Discuss the film and Blu-ray here   


PICTURE

Accompanying the first film, The Emigrants, Jan Troell’s sequel The New Land also comes to Blu-ray from Criterion, presented on the second dual-layer disc of the two-disc set. The 1080p/24hz high-definition presentation comes from a high-def scan of the original negative performed by Svensk Filmindustri and, like the previous film, is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.66:1.

Similar to The Emigrants I suspect this is an older master, despite the specs indicating we’re getting a “new” high-definition digital transfer. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the basis for the 2005 DVD set of the two films released in Sweden, though admittedly I don’t have that disc to compare to so can’t say for sure. Still the presentation shows some elements that suggest it is older. On the whole it looks fine, similar to The Emigrants in about every respect, delivering a nice level of detail in both long shots and close-ups, strong colours with excellent saturation, and decent, if not spectacular, sense of depth and textures.

Where I felt the image lacked was more in handling of grain and black levels. Grain looks okay but not entirely natural, just passable, and macro-blocking is noticeable, with darker scenes again coming off a bit messier than brighter scenes. Black levels are again decent enough but crushing is still evident.

In terms of blemishes and damage I didn’t note anything glaring and I recall the image being quite clean, Criterion possibly doing their own added bits of clean-up. But there are still some source issues and a couple of odd anomalies. There are noticeable fluctuations in the colours a handful of times and there are moments where the image seems to jump around a bit. There’s an especially bad moment of the latter issue at around the 1:35:22 point, where these jumps get really bad, the image jumping up and down. It could possibly be some side effect from filming that couldn’t be stabilized, though honestly it doesn’t look like it’s a natural occurrence and is possibly an error that occurred during scanning: it’s a really odd effect and it does pop up in other places, just not as bad as this moment.

This was the release I was looking forward to most this month so I’m a little disappointed. Like The Emigrants it looks decent enough overall, but again it could look better.

7/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

Like The Emigrants this film comes with a lossless linear PCM 1.0 Swedish mono track and like the former film’s track we get another surprisingly immersive presentation, despite being limited to one channel. Sound effects are rather rich, dialogue sounds clear and distinctive, and fidelity is strong. Music can sound a little flat at times again, but every other aspect is pretty strong.

8/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Criterion releases The Emigrants and The New Land together in a two-disc set. Each film receives its own disc and each disc features a handful of supplements. For the purposes of this review I’m only focusing on the supplements that accompany The New Land on its disc.

This disc features a couple of interviews, the first between Jan Troell and Peter Cowie. In this 36-minute interview, Troell does repeat quite a bit of information from the documentary on the first disc, To Paint with Pictures, talking about the adaptation, the blowout he had with author Vilhelm Moberg (though he expands on what Moberg’s issues were) and then the various decisions that went into the look of the film from using colour film to locations. He does also expand on working around budget constraints and how he wasn’t able to do the ox killing scene (which is also mentioned in the doc). He and Cowie also talk about specific scenes and sequences in the films, with more detail about the editing that went into the Robert/Arvid flash back that appears in The New Land. Some of the ground covered was familiar because it is in the previous documentary but when Troell and Cowie start talking about specifics it becomes a more engaging discussion.

Liv Ullmann next talks about her work in the films from the initial excitement in getting the role (a surprise to her since she is Norwegian) to going to the Oscars and being told she was definitely going to win (she learned afterwards that everyone in Hollywood just tells you that even if you don’t have a chance). She fondly recalls the experience, working with Troell and co-stars Max von Sydow and Monica Zetterlund, and also her own daughter. She’s quite proud of the role and the film and it shows, making the interview a very energetic and breezy 24-minutes.

The disc then closes with the theatrical trailer and an included insert features an essay by Terrence Rafferty, who covers both films.

The supplements as a whole (even including the features on the first disc) feel pretty slim considering the large scale of both films, but the supplements altogether are worth going through, and it’s really just wonderful enough getting both films together finally.

5/10

CLOSING

There was a bit of disappointment that it looks like we’re getting what are probably older high-definition transfers but the image here, on the whole, is still very good. And the supplements may look light but the interviews on here are both strong, and the documentary found on the first disc (with The Emigrants) is a surprisingly good making-of. But the most appealing aspect of this release is that we finally get both The Emigrants and The New Land together in North America, outside of the previous VHS and LaserDisc releases.


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