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Pelle the Conqueror

Pelle the Conqueror
File:Pelle original.jpg
Original Swedish poster
Directed by Bille August
Produced by Per Holst
Screenplay by Bille August
Per Olov Enquist
Bjarne Reuter
Max Lundgren
Based on Pelle Erobreren 
by Martin Andersen Nexø
Starring Max von Sydow
Pelle Hvenegaard
Erik Paaske
Bjørn Granath
Music by Stefan Nilsson
Cinematography Jörgen Persson
Edited by Janus Billeskov Jansen
Distributed by Svensk Filmindustri (Sweden)
Kærne Film (Denmark)
Release dates
  • 25 December 1987 (1987-12-25)
Running time
150 minutes[1]
Country Denmark
Language Scanian
Box office $2,053,931[3]

Pelle the Conqueror (Danish: Pelle Erobreren, Swedish: Pelle erövraren) is a 1987 Danish-Swedish drama film co-written and directed by Bille August that tells the story of two Swedish immigrants to Denmark, a father and son, who try to build a new life for themselves. It stars Pelle Hvenegaard as the young Pelle, with Max von Sydow as his father.

Critically acclaimed, it won the Palme d'Or at the 1988 Cannes Film Festival, the 1988 Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film, and the 1988 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.


Based upon the famous 1910 novel of the same name by Danish writer Martin Andersen Nexø, the film is set in the late 1850s and early 1860s. A boat filled with emigrants from Sweden arrives at the Danish island of Bornholm. Among them are Lasse Karlsson and his son Pelle who have moved to Denmark from Skåne County, in southern Sweden, to find work after the death of Pelle's mother. They find employment at a large farm, but find themselves treated as the lowest form of life. It is only as Pelle starts to speak Danish that he begins to gain in confidence, but is still discriminated against as a foreigner. But neither boy nor father is willing to give up their dream of finding a better life than that which they left in Sweden.



The film is a co-production between companies in Denmark and Sweden, with the screenplay adapted by Bille August, Per Olov Enquist, Janus Billeskov Jansen, Max Lundgren, and Bjarne Reuter from the 1910 novel of the same name by Martin Andersen Nexø. This adaptation was directed by August, with a score composed by Stefan Nilsson.


The film received very positive reviews; it currently holds a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.[4]


Pelle the Conqueror won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, 1988; it was submitted to the Academy by the Danish government, giving Denmark its second consecutive win after Babette's Feast. Max von Sydow was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor, but lost to Dustin Hoffman for Rain Man.

The film also won the Palme d'Or at the 1988 Cannes Film Festival[5] and the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film. It was listed in The New York Times Guide to the Best 1000 Movies Ever Made the same year. At the 23rd Guldbagge Awards it won the award for Best Film and Max von Sydow won the award for Best Actor.[6]

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