The latest film by director Emanuele Crialese (who also did 2002 Respiro) is a fine example of modern Italian cinema at its best – amazing photography, supported by clever screenplay and pounding soundtrack that will keep you relishing the experience days after watching.
[youtube width=”615″ height=”461″]http://youtu.be/-NkoJXHiQTc[/youtube]
The film vividly tells the story of Italian emigration to America through the Mancuso family, traveling from a small village in Sicily aboard a rocky ship, and their screening process on Ellis Island, extenuating the cultural differences of the old world with the rigid, at times preposterous requirements – of the new world. Beyond health exams, immigrants have to go through intelligence tests as ignorance – in the eye of immigration officers – is perceived as another contagious epidemic that needs to be filtered out.
In this Italo-french co-production, the most prominent element is the striking visual photography by Agnès Godard who provides a unique blend of close-up angles and top views textures that offers a remarkably deeper and much richer experience.
I especially liked the scene with a top view of a huge crowd of immigrants, you would think standing all together ready to board a ship, yet gradually this crowd slowly starts to part ways. In an instant, you comprehend that one group is on the ship and the other is in fact still standing on the dock. A phenomenal use of similar texture alignment to convey sensations of achievement by those who made it to the ship and the radical element of departure.
The major cast members you will recognize from 2002 Respiro; The father played beautifully by Salvatore (Vincenzo Amato), and his two sons Angelo (Francesco Casisa) and Pietro (Filippo Pucillo). To this team is added Luce, the English lady played by Charlotte Gainsbourg who Salvatore falls in love with during the voyage.
The film effectively illustrates the sense of confusion, struggle, and grand sacrifice immigrants had to go through in their quest for a better life in America. Interestingly, the director chooses not to show us completely how the immigrants interact with the new world outside, but limits our view to their symbolically perceived vision of America as river of milk. This provides another spectacular top view visual of immigrants swimming in that promised white liquid, each just a tiny blot paddling towards materializing their own dreams in the new world.
Why? Because they – we all deserve it!