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The classic tale of coming to America is turned into a wondrous and magical experience in writer/director Emanuele Crialese's (Respiro) romantic fable. Driven by fantastic dreams and confronted with shocking realities, one man makes an epic odyssey in search of a brand new world. On a perilous steamship journey from his Sicilian village, the widower Salvatore Mancuso (Vincenzo Amato) encounters the ravishing, mystery-shrouded Englishwoman Lucy (Charlotte Gainsbourg, The Science of Sleep)—as the Old World literally collides into the New with seductive results. Amid a harrowing crossing, an unexpected love story unfolds all the way to the halls of Ellis Island, where both Salvatore and Lucy will stop at nothing to make it through the Golden Door to the America of their imaginations.
 

 Golden Door

This film must be a reaction, a challenge, an act of love, a questioning.

It’s a reaction and a response to the “Old Europe” and to the “New America.” A bottle thrown in the sea.

Set in the early 1900s, this is the story of one family who, along with a million other families, decides to abandon their native soil in order to establish themselves in another world.

These are good-willed people and, when put to the test, are immune to manipulation and exploitation. They are people who, despite everything, still have faith: they are gullible, hopeful and are equipped with too great a faith in mankind until finally, during the long crossing to America, they are stripped of that faith.

They are men and women of another time who are forced to live a new life, far away, in cities and factories...inspired by the promise of progress. An entire “old” generation—whose survival depended for centuries on their native soil, their animals, the sun and the seasons—disappears with their departure.

They move towards a “virgin land,” immense and rich, where everything is yet to be built and cultivated, where the ground impatiently awaits the arrival of the men and women ready to sacrifice themselves for what will certainly be a better life, certainly an easier life, certainly a more human life, certainly...

A CHALLENGE

The first time I spoke about this film, I called it “Titanic of the Poor.” The challenge consisted of carrying out a production that looked very expensive for very little money. This choice was not imposed on me by the industry, but instead was an artistic and stylistic choice for the way I wanted to tell this story.

This is a story about the power of imagination, a journey guided by a dream. I wanted to imagine a world as it was imagined by those who left their homes: a world where giant potatoes grew, where milk flowed in rivers, where roads were made of gold and buildings of silver. America, for me, was not just a nation, but a state of mind, a desire, an adventure…America was an idea!

The challenge was stylistic. The restrictions to overcome were technical. I wanted to shoot the film like a director from the 1920s; I wanted to go back in time by using the most fundamental elements of filmmaking: the frame, the lighting, the mise-en-scène, the sound. I wanted to travel light on this voyage: few instruments but used to their fullest, “less is more!”

I wanted to create and reproduce, not reality, but the suggestion of an intimate and personal reality. Accuracy does not interest me. I was not seeking to recreate a historical period meticulously but rather I wanted to find the spirit of the early 1900s: How did these men speak? What did they think and experience? What were the challenges they faced a hundred years ago?

AN ACT OF LOVE

An act of love for all those who uprooted their lives and gave up their native land in the search of a better life. Seen as deserters in their native country, they became foreigners in the country that took them in. The immigrants were and still are at an impasse as they are trapped between their past and future.

A QUESTIONING

Rather than give answers, I prefer to raise questions: What would America be like without Europe? And Europe without America? Indeed, history has never witnessed a migration as massive as the one that took place in America between the end of the 1800s and the beginning of the 1900s.

A CHOICE OF LANGUAGE

The dialogue must correspond to the overall style of the film: bare, concise, focused on the essential. Our heroes are not talkative; they reveal their emotions through their body language in keeping with the universal tradition of art, which is expressed initially through images.

I am not a filmmaker who makes a film at any cost. A film must have its own raison d’être. For me, this film does.