The Golden Door
Review by Jack Foley
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Making Of Featurette; Trailer.
EMANUELE Crialese’s The Golden Door is an ambitious, often surreal, tale of an Old World Italian family coming to New World America at the beginning of the 20th Century and the hardships they had to face both during the journey and upon arrival in “the land of opportunity”.
It’s imaginatively directed, nicely performed but more than a little strange in places.
The family in question is led by earnest patriarch Salvatore (Vincenzo Amato) and includes his teenage son Angelo (Francesco Casisa), the mute Pietro (Filippo Pucillo), and his aging, sceptical mother Fortunata (Aurora Quattrocchi). En route, they also ‘recruit’ lonely British woman, Lucy (Charlotte Gainsbourg), who finds a possible husband in Salvatore.
What makes The Golden Door so striking, however, is the way in which Crialese invests proceedings with an almost mystical quality – sometimes fantastical, but also nightmarish.
He also provides a nice juxtaposition between contemporary attitudes and traditional thinking, especially during the family’s prolonged medical screening and mental testing at Ellis Island.
But while there’s plenty to admire in the director’s vision, it won’t be to everyone’s taste. Anyone anticipating a straightforward depiction of a family’s journey to America might find the pacing laboured and some of the surreal imagery (such as rivers of milk) irritating.
The decisions and motivations of several key characters also feel ambiguous in places.
But there’s no denying the horrible sense of claustrophobia that Crialese creates during some of the more traumatic moments aboard the ship, or the culture-shock that many Italian immigrants must have experienced upon arrival in the US.
Amato and Gainsbourg also acquit themselves well in the lead roles, providing audiences with characters that are genuinely worth rooting for.
The Golden Door is therefore worth entering if you fancy seeing a vastly different perspective on the age-old tale of finding new hope in a new land – namely America.
In Italian, with subtitles
Running time: 118mins