Writer: Emanuele Crialese
Release Date: 22 September 2006 (Italy)
Runtime: 120 min / Canada:112 min (Toronto International Film Festival)
The movie opens with a windswept, boulder strewn vista and we see two men, bedraggled and barefoot scrambling up this rocky surface. As the close shots of the men’s bloodied feet give way to show them clamber up what looks to be the top of their climb, the camera pans farther away to reveal this beautiful but stark mountainside and that the men have ways to go. They eventually reach the summit, a shrine with a cross and we see small rocks in their mouths slightly bloodied (from being held there) that are now added to the small pile at its bottom.
Salvatore Mancuso (Vincenzo Amato) and his son Angelo (Francesco Casisa) place their offerings at the shrine and the father asks god for a sign if he should stay or leave their hard scrabble existence behind. A sign (of sorts) does arrive in the form of his other deaf-mute son Pietro (Filippo Pucillo) bearing photographs of what a new life in America purportedly looks like. Those have come to him by way of his grandmother Fortunata (Aurora Quattrocchi) who is performing an exorcism on one of the two women who have are going to
Thus begins the story of a group of poor Italians from the mountains of
For the rest of the movie we travel along with the passengers on the ship, and learn about their dreams and their fears, experience their arduous journey and the realization that even if some of them make it to the shores of
There is also a marriage brokering ceremony performed at Ellis island, which feels like an auction and your heart goes out to some of the young women as they are matched with much older men.
We see the various characters including Salvatore’s family face the various tests that they as potential immigrants must perform and the humiliations they must endure to be admitted to this country. They are forced to solve puzzles, perform mathematical tasks and undergo medical examinations in order to prove that they are "fit". So what will be the fate of the deaf-mute Pietro?
You have to watch this movie to find the answer to the final choice that Salvatore and his family must make that will change their lives in a very profound manner.
In addition to the opening sequences there are several scenes that stayed with me..
The movie has almost no background score for about the first 40 mins or so, and I found that somehow the movie was more riveting allowing me to focus on the “natural” sounds of the story. And the very effective use of sound (the rumble of the engines, the groaning of the metal innards of the ship) accentuate the mood of the movie which has excellent cinematography.
There is a brief interlude when two passengers in the bowels of the ship start to sing, their only accompaniment being the Tambourine, I could not understand the words but the song and the power of their emotions behind it touched me.
As the ship departs for the
Watch it if you get a chance, this movie is a touching tribute to immigrants.