Pelle the Conqueror
Film Movement // PG-13 // $39.95 // May 30, 2017
Review by Neil Lumbard | posted June 10, 2017
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Pelle the Conquerer Blu-ray Review Pelle the Conqueror is a an adaptation of the acclaimed novel by Martin Andersen Nexo. The bestselling novel is highly regarded as one of the most important works of Danish literature. Produced by Per Holst (Evil, The Element of Crime), Pelle the Conqueror won several prestigious awards including Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards and the Palme d'Or (Best Picture) at the Cannes Film Festival.

Pelle (Pelle Hvenegaard) and his father Lassefar (Max von Sydow) come to Denmark by boat on a journey to immigrate to a new land with the promise of there being better jobs, better work environments, and more hope for their future. Instead, both Lassefar and Pelle come to find abysmal living conditions and bad characters that surround them.

Pelle and Lassefar face the bitterness of life's disappointments when they find there are no better jobs or working conditions in their new homeland. What they find instead is just more turmoil and pain. While living under their new barren household, more a barn than proper home, Pelle and Lassefar struggle to live.

Max Von Sydow, an Ingmar Bergman favorite and one of the greatest actors in cinema history, was nominated for Best Actor at Academy Awards. Sydow is always in fine form and this is another example of his excellence as an actor. Yet, amidst the ensemble of characters, his performance sometimes felt overshadowed without as much screen-time in the film.

Pelle the Conqueror has impressive production design by Anna Asp (Autumn Sonata). The production elements are well realized with authenticity. The cinematography by Jorgen Persson (Les Miserables, The House of the Spirits) has an interesting use of color which reflects the grim reality of the character's living situations while showcasing the countryside. The music by Stefan Nilsson (As It Is In Heaven, Deliver Us From Evil) is melancholy and fitting for the story.

The screenplay was written by Bille August, Per Olov Enquist, and Bjarne Reuter. The film is directed by Bille August (Les Miserables). Though the film was honored with many awards, I felt a feeling of disconnect from my experience with the film. Though some of the production aspects are commendable, the film has a coldness to it than is bitter.

Pelle the Conqueror is harsh, cold, and cynical throughout. It makes for an unpleasant experience with the story unfolding with one harsh circumstance and event after another happening to these characters. The unsentimental and cold filmmaking approach was jarring. Pelle the Conqueror is a film which suggests that life is full of more disappointment than hope: which is an outlook I can't and won't agree with.

The Blu-ray:


Pelle the Conqueror arrives on Blu-ray with a 1080p high definition presentation in the original 1.85:1 widescreen theatrical aspect ratio. The film received a 2K restoration effort. The release has impressive picture-quality with a strong restoration effort. The release has crisp colors and natural film grain.


The audio is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio the original 2.0 stereo (preserving the original sound design). Dialogue is crisp and easy to understand. The music is clear and has good audio fidelity.

In Danish and Swedish with English subtitles.


This release includes a booklet featuring an essay written by Terrence Rafferty.

New Audio Commentary by film scholar Peter Cowie is provided.

Final Thoughts:

Pelle the Conqueror won numerous awards and received much acclaim but the film's cold and unsentimental approach (along with a cynical worldview) make for an unpleasing experience.

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