Wednesday, April 7, 2010


Nuovomondo (2006) is a film directed by Emanuele Crialese. Crialese has done a wonderful job with this film in representing the journey of a family immigrating from their small village in Sicily to the United States of America. He starts the film with two men holding rocks in their mouth. This opening scene is characterized by silence and mystery. The theme is composed of the mountains that the characters are climbing and also their dirty clothes along with them walking beare feet. The two characters, Salvatore Mancuso (Vincenzo Amato ) and his son walk up the mountain with the rocks in their mouth to pay as a token to the holy place.
This is where Salvatore asks whether he should leave Sicily or stay. He is then shown pictures from his younger child showing money growing on trees, gigantic carrots and chicken that are ten times bigger than normal, and takes this as a sign from above to depart for the new world. This is an important aspect of the film as it develops and initiates an imaginative world that these people are about to depart into. The imagination of the new world from Salvatore’s prospective will be leading the film and will open the doors to the viewers imagination as to what these immigrants belief of their new world is. This will the skeleton of the film, which will keep the viewers to continue thinking of how the story will continue even after it has been watched. When leaving their village, Salvatore brings with him his mother Fortunata (Aurora Quattrocchi) who is the village doctor and has certain which powers which uses against curses, his two sons and two other women who are to be married in America.
The Boat Trip
Upon arrival at the shipyard, Salvatore and his family go through the standard procedure of getting the documentation ready to depart. While waiting, a mysterious English woman appears and acts as if she travels with them. Her name is Lucy (Charlotte Gainsbourg ) and although she has nothing to do with the Mancuso family, Salvatore is enchanted by her beauty and therefore acts as if she really is part of the family. She plays a big role throughout the film in Salvatore’s imagination of being his wife and partner upon arrival to the new world. Her classy dressing and behaviour also catches the attention of all the women on the ship, to whom she becomes as an ideal female from a stylish prospective. Lucy becomes a symbol in the film, for the characters she assumes the transition that allows them to witness what the new world will hold for them, whereas the viewer gains knowledge of the reason why the immigration is occurring and what the rest of the characters aspired to be.
The long journey begins on the boat as everyone sees it leaving the coast of Sicily. Everybody is nervous, sad, and worried simultaneously since they leave everything they have and know, to go into a world that they have only heard about. Throughout the boat trip the viewer sees compassion between everyone on the boat as if they are a big family going towards the same goal instead of separate people following their personal journey. This unity among the third class poverty is interrupted by an upper class travelling to America and Miss Lucy. The dissonance of the upper class travellers appears in many cases towards an interest in Miss Lucy, who has attracted everyone’s attention due to her beauty and tactful dressing. Due to the same reason she catches attention she becomes dislikes by most of the women and men in the third class. A group of men keep on trying to bribe her by telling her that they will find her a husband, apparently in return for sexual favours. Many rumours spread throughout the boat about this English woman who is travelling alone, but this does not stop the way Salvatore feels about her, which in an instance, when he hears the other men speak of Lucy becomes protective of her as if she really is travelling with his family. Throughout the trip Lucy starts to become interested in Salvatore instead of the other men who keep bribing her, and she begins to flirt with him. Shortly upon arrival to Ellis Island Lucy asks Salvatore to marry her. Salvatore immediately replies to her by saying that he would be honoured, but she tells him that she does not want to marry him because she loves him. Lucy only wants to marry him so she can get into United States but he tells her that he would marry her anyway and replies to her statement saying that love takes time to grow on people. Lucy creates for the immigrants the idea of perfect from an appearance point of view and simultaneously she breaks their perfect marriage, rules and cultural standard ideologies which many of the Italian immigrants have grown up with and live by. Since she does this right before getting off the ship, the viewer gets the hint that the new world might not be as perfect as everyone believes and the culture that one came with will start an immediate “mutation”.
The New World
When arriving in Ellis Island, there is a fog, which clouds any opportunity for anyone to see what will come ahead of them. When everyone comes off shore, they are separated and put into different groups. The authorities start differentiating them based on their intelligence, knowledge and usefulness that each separate individual has. The differentiation is used to see whether they are good enough to enter and live in the United States, since the authorities believe that intelligence is spread through genetics. Whoever does not pass the test is sent back to the old country, while the people who are deemed “worth it” or needed remain in America. Throughout these tests, Lucy reveals her identity as an English woman, and is threatened by the authorities who tell her that it is very uncommon for a single English woman to travel with Italians. Salvatore’s younger son who is deaf and mute also is threatened to be deported because of his handicap which the Ellis Island authorities feel that he might somehow transmit. While being tested by the customs, none of the immigrants get to see the new world except in an instance when Salvatore climbs himself up a window and sees enormous, unfamiliar buildings. Despite him looking outside the window the viewer does not get to see anything, and this is another trick that Crialese uses to leave space to the imagination of whoever is watching the film. Most likely this is because any immigrant that watches it, will be able to relate their own personal experience and feel all the emotions represented in Nuovomondo. Salvatore finally obtains permission to marry Lucy, but he is faced with the problem that authorities want to deport his mother and his son. As he is told this news, Fortunata takes her grandson’s curse of being deaf and lets him tell his father that she wants to go back home since she does not find America a world where she belongs in.
The End
The film ends with an imaginary sequence that Salvatore has throughout the entire trip about being with Lucy and his family in a river of milk. It is accompanied with the rest of the people that came along for the trip, which once again shows the unity towards the same dream and goal. There are no scenes representing the new world these people travelled for and Crialese uses this as a closing scene to allow the film to proceed in each individual’s mind as they would like to portray it. This way of ending the film is extremely artistic since it leaves it open to each viewer’s imagination even after the film is over.

Extra Sources:
Nuovomondo Review:
Biography of Emanuele Crialese:


Jessica said...

The initial scene, as you mentioned, is important because the contrast between the old world and the new world is evident before the story line is even developed. Salvatore and his family belong to a culture that incorporates superstitious beleifs into their daily lives. It is fitting that Salvatore and his family embark on their journey to the new world only after having received, what they interpreted, as a sign from a rock shrine. In my opinion, the rock offerings to a shrine that did not appear to reppresent an particular holy entity, symbolized their faith in superstitious or even pagan beleifs as opposed to a divine being that would guide them both physically and spiritually. Their superstitious beleifs will stay present with the travellers throughout the course of their voyage.
It's a beautiful film with little words and I love the way Crialese leaves the viewer speculating about what awaits the Mancuso family on the other side of the Golden Doors.

kelco411 said...

One thing I really liked about this film is the aspect of silence. Silence is almost like its own character in this film, and it takes on a role of its own. One of the most powerful scenes in the film is when the immigrants are about to take off on the boat. They are all looking down at the people still on dock, and there is literally not one person talking. It is dead silent. This goes on for several seconds, and then finally there is a loud horn that goes off on the ship, causing everyone to look up at where it is coming from. That scene really meant something because like mentioned in the blog, the travelers were scared and sad; they didn't know what was in store for them. The silence really captured that well.
The other scene having to do with silence is the one at the very end of the film with the grandmother and the mute son. They look at each other for what seems to be several minutes, not saying a word. It is like a spoken language between them that doesn't need words to be understood. This is a crucial scene in the film because right after this, the mute son talks for the first time ever, and the grandmother decides she wants to go back to Sicily. I don't think this would have been as powerful if it wasn't for the scene of silence. Silence is it's own character, and it is very important in the telling of the story.

elisa6690 said...

Nuovomondo definitely left room for interpretation. The numerous shots of bizarre scenes may signify many things, although unfortunately for those of us who are overly curious about Crialese's intentions, the true significance is never revealed.
Miss Lucy intrigued me due to the fact that I was left wondering if she was just taking advantage of this family, or if she secretly had feelings for Salvatore. I think her character develops throughout the film-meaning she goes from "woman who needs a way back into America, and will do anything for it" into "woman who intended on just using someone to get her into America, but ultimately grows to care about not only the man, but his family as well". I go from being weary about her, to appreciating her for the guidance she gives Salvatore and his family.

Emirjona85 said...

One of the things that was interesting to me was the end of the movie. There was a similarity to 'Respiro', one of the other movies of Emanuele Crealese. The shots were made kind of the same, but with different angles. In 'Respiro', it was Grazia with Pietro swimming on the sea, and then everyone else came. When everyone got together you would only see their feet. It was a low - angle shot. On the other hand, in 'Nuovomondo', at the end you would see only the heads of Lucy and the Mancuso family. Then all the other immigrants came. They were also swimming in milk. That was a high angle shot. As you would see little heads in milk, it seemed like Crealese wanted to show how big and important America was to these people.

Cinepresa87 said...
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Cinepresa87 said...

I particularity enjoyed this film because of its cinematography and its story. It connected with me on a personal level because my family roots are Sicilian. Although, not arriving at the turn of the 20th century, my grandparents also made the journey from Sicily to America. Nuovomondo captured the anticipation, despair, innocence, and devotion immigrants had to come to a foreign place in hopes of a better life. What impressed me about this film was that not everything was blatantly obvious. Crialese included some scenes in the film were it was left up to the viewer to interpret. Also, it examines American history, giving us a glimpse of things that actually occurred in the early 1900’s by weaving factual information into the Salvatore’s family voyage to America.

Celia said...

What I liked about the film was its storyline. I think that most can relate to the idea of wanting to make life better. The immigration aspect of the film is something most of us, if not almost all of us, can relate to since most of us probably had relatives who emigrated to the US via Ellis Island. I also admired the English woman named Lucy. She was different from the people she was with on the boat, not only in apperance but in other ways. She was a brave woman for going on a boat full of strangers, who did not speak her language, and going to a whole new land. Although she was different from Fortunata (I think thats her name but not sure) in so many ways, they both shared one quality: both are strong independent women.
Another important quality of the film I liked was how it would be silent a lot. For the avergae person who watches movies, silence can be distracting and lead them to question a lot. But in a way, silence and actions can speak louder than spoken dialogue.

tots288 said...

Hearing a lot of stories of immigration, this film gave me many flash backs of situations I've heard from family members. This film was excellent, a bit strange at times though. I think I understood the strange dream like sequences but in my opinion they were a little too far fetched. There was a lot to grasp about this film and I personally do think it depicted the journey to America quite well, at least from things I've heard. In terms of specific situations that might seem to be a bit odd, for instance the whole marriage scenes, where men would pratically bid on women. This was true and very accurate. One of my relatives Grandparents actually had to do the same exact thing, except he knew his future wife. The long voyage to America as immigrants was very interesting to see and this film did a great job of that!

Cool Italian Pics said...

This film was outstanding. It really portrayed a sense of what it would be like to pick up stakes and leave for another country.
The surreal aspects of the film remind the viewer of immigrant dreams, where they are lead to believe that there are bountiful resources. However, getting to America isn't so easy. Another aspect of this film I enjoyed was the music played on the ship. While the music was sorrowful, it was also very enjoyable as a genre.
I think the narrative ending on Ellis Island was perfect. If they would have arrived in New York, it could have ended in tears, or have been too Hollywood.

Mr Hooster said...

I do agree with the idea that Crialese left out different iconic images of New York City so that the viewer could use their own imagination of what the immigrants would be seeing. One part of the film that I truly appreciate is how difficult it would be for these individuals to make the trip from Sicily to America. This is shown by Salvatore going to the cross asking for divine inspiration (they allude to the fact that this isn't the first time). The man they receive the clothing and shoes from also asks "Are you sure this time?" Most people cannot imagine how difficult it would be to make this transition.
Another idea presented in the film I appreciated was role superstition played in Sicily. This was displayed by the "witch doctor" mother when she could hear spirits and pull snakes from the young girl. Even today, Sicily is a very superstitious land partially because of all the different cultures that have influenced it over the years.