THE CLEARING screenplay is based on the first volume of a trilogy depicting the rise, decline, and fall of the United States family farm; its families, its way of life. This first volume tells of the immigrants - symbolized by the young couple Ole P. and Helena Olesson - coming to the U.S. and logging off the giant virgin pine, preparatory to farming the land. The second as yet unfinished volume tells of this first generation of Olesson's, along with their children, farming the land through the Great Depression and World War II; to a great extent, fighting to keep the family farm intact through the Depression and finally realizing prosperity during and, for a period, after the war. The third/final volume, entitled CRY OF THE PRAIRIE, depicts an amalgam of the second and third generation of the Olesson family losing the family farm to agribusiness; you see this already foreshadowed in THE CLEARING with the advent of the big logging/lumber companies in league with the railroads poised to swallow the smaller, family owned logging companies of the late 1800's.
THE CLEARING, novel and screenplay, is primarily about the age old struggle of man and woman, of yesteryear or today, to truly love each other, build a marriage not only with each other but also with their land, create a family and carve out a life and livelihood against overwhelming odds. Man against Nature. Man against Man. But, most of all, Man against Himself.
In this particular rendering of this age old struggle, it is 1880 America, the United States. A very young disparate couple emigrates from hidebound Norway into the wilderness of central Wisconsin, find them trapped in a dugout house in a tiny clearing amidst the towering pine hovering over them. A pampered "rich" boy whom circumstances and nature forge into a man. A fifteen year old immigrant girl all alone in the dugout buried under ten feet of snow during the big blizzard of 1880 gives birth. All in all, it's a big sprawling outdoor story that is historically accurate, psychologically sound and will look pictorially tremendous on screen; the type of story the great David Lean would have considered filming. An authentic film: the author's family played a major role in the story. The major protagonist, Ole P. Olesson, is an amalgam of both his grandfathers, one of whom came to our country as a very young man with a very young pregnant wife and became a major player in the logging off of Northern Wisconsin. The log-drive down the Little Wolf River took place much as depicted; the author personally walked the river with his grandfather some 50 years ago, stood upon the remains of one of the three dams that he and others built to facilitate the log-drive down to Lake Winnebago. The Per Lungun character is based upon the real life character who mythologically grew over the years to become Paul Bunyan, the larger-than-life lumberjack who symbolized all the fabled U.S. lumberjacks of yore.