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:: Golden Door

It is interesting to note that in Italian, “The Golden Door” is called “Nuovomondo,” or “New World”. Emanuele Crialese's “The Golden Door,” the story of an Italian family emigrating to America circa 1900, contains long, contemplative silences and immerses us in the images and sounds of its world: the arduous and the tedious testing, prodding, and scrubbing that immigrants undergo before being granted even temporary citizenship. We feel much of what the family feels, and it's only fitting that we should, since so many of us are descendants of people who came to America in much the same way.

“The Golden Door” sometimes feels slow — just enough to be disconcerting if it hasn‘t sunk in yet what the director is trying to do. Once you accept the intention of making us share the characters’ experiences as viscerally as possible, you can relax and let the movie do its thing.

The characters are the Mancuso family; Sicilians who have barely left their tiny village before, let alone sailed the seas. At the head is Salvatore (Vincenzo Amato), a widower with two teenage sons, Angelo (Francesco Casisa) and Pietro (Filippo Pucillo). Pietro is mute but not deaf and apparently somewhat simple-minded. Angelo, the older of the two, is more useful to Salvatore as a worker and partner.

Salvatore's ancient mother, Fortunata (Aurora Quattrocchi), a superstitious old woman, is accompanying them to the New World, perhaps for no better reason than that her relatives are going. Upon arrival, it becomes glaringly obvious that she is ill-suited to the modern American way of life.

The story itself is simple, but the characters are portrayed naturally. Only a subplot in which an English woman (Charlotte Gainsbourg) wants to marry Salvatore to help with her own citizenship process feels forced and unnecessary. She is aided by an American played by Vincent Schiavelli, who died during filming, necessitating the reduction of his character's role. I suspect the subplot would have felt more connected to the film if it could have been filmed in its entirety. Looking forward to their new life together, neither is prepared for the realities of Ellis Island, where they'll stop at nothing to make it through the golden door into the America of their dreams.

DVD Extras

- Introduction by Martin Scorsese
- The Making of The Golden Door