Published Jun 14, 2007The classic image of the American immigrant is that of an awestruck sap coming to the land of infinite opportunity without strings or problems. So thank God theres Emanuele Crialise and his Golden Door, which shatters the stereotype with an arduous journey and bitter disappointment once ensconced in the new world.
The film deals with a family of turn-of-the-last-century Sicilian peasants who live a remote existence without evidence of the outside world. Superstition is the order of the day, as is illiteracy and hopelessness, but theyve heard of America and know of its huge bounty from the novelty photographs passed around as gospel. Crialese deftly paints the ennui and terror of a life without context: the days all bleed into each other without differentiation and one cries out for some kind of intervention. But the trip to and arrival in New York proves traumatic: not only are they abused in steerage, but they find a "rational system at Ellis Island armed with pseudo-science to weed out the "undesirable and "feeble-minded.
The hardships this family face are innumerable and never-ending, right up to the verdict rendered on some of the members. All the while, the director hangs back with a gentle, unforced tone thats reminiscent of the Taviani brothers. Were thrown into the scrum to sink or swim (sometimes in the fantastical "rivers of milk promised to our heroes), forced to face the non-narrative reality of having to navigate a minefield of trials just to stake a claim to a better life.
However, this is less muckraking than quiet sympathy one doesnt notice the pain so much as the person who bears it and who deserves better. Critics are lining up to brush this movie off but dont be fooled. (Christal)