The Golden Door

The Golden Door


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

It is the early 20th century, and hard-working Sicilian peasant Salavtore (Vincenzo Amato) has had enough of working on the land. He dreams of a new way of life - he dreams of emigrating to America, where his twin brother went before him. His mother and two sons are to accompany him; two young women heading for arranged marriages are placed in their care; and along the way they meet a mysterious Englishwoman who also needs his help. Yet in the midst of all this responsibility, and despite the thrust of his ambition, Salvatore feels torn as he says goodbye to the land and way of life which his family has known for centuries.

The Golden Door is a deeply evocative piece of film-making. From its very first scene it creates a powerful impression of the land, and though the grey skies change little during the family's long sea voyage, with America itself being left to the imagination, skillful camerawork and creative use of light show us how Salvatore's perceptions are changing and expanding.

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The myths of the homeland are explored through a series of brief, surreal vistas contrasted in turn with myths about the land which awaits. Salvatore's mother has a deep attachment to the old ways; Aurora Quattrocchi plays her as if she were almost an extension of Sicily itself. The Englishwoman Lucy (Charlotte Gainsbourg), by contrast, represents all that is new and unknown. Even whilst she shares the family's struggles she remains an outsider, symbolic of some unknown pain. Even as Salvatore desires her, he knows that, like America, some aspect of her will remain forever outside his understanding.

Salvatore's story is an old one but a universal one. Though rather simplistically told, with no real surprises, it seems very much pertinent today, with an estimated 11 million people thought to be displaced worldwide. In saying goodbye to everything he knows, this man is almost stepping outside reality, trusting everything to fate, relying on his hopes and an essential belief in goodness to carry him through. These qualities, in turn, have something to give to everyone around him.

It's rare to see such a bold attempt at mythic storytelling in modern cinema, and that this should have come from Emanuele Crialese, still relatively inexperienced despite some impressive work so far, is truly remarkable. As a story it has limited potential but as a piece of art it's well worth taking a look at, and it just might signify something really special to come.

Reviewed on: 26 Jun 2007
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Early in the 20th century, hard-working peasant Salvatore takes his family to the New World in search of a better life.
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Director: Emanuele Crialese

Writer: Emanuele Crialese

Starring: Vincenzo Amato, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Aurora Quattrocchi, Francesco Casisa, Filippo Pucillo

Year: 2006

Runtime: 120 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: Italy, Germany, France


Tribeca 2007

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