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Nuovomondo (The Golden Door)

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Nuovomondo (The Golden Door) tells the story of a small group of Sicilians traveling to the New World at the turn of the twentieth century. It's a romantic fable set in rather harrowing circumstances, as a shipload of immigrants make their way to Ellis Island. In the course of the movie, we never see the actual New World – it's only ever talked about, imagined, or peeked at through a window at the American detention center. We do, however, get a great view of the Old World, Sicily, in the first third of the movie.

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When I picture Sicily, I always think of picturesque seaside towns like Taormina sprinkled down mountainsides. The island we see in Nuovomondo is somewhere entirely different – a harshly, rocky place, dry and almost inhospitable. Far from picture-postcardy, yet strangely beautiful.

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The first thing you notice about the location is rocky terrain. The main character and his brother are first seen climbing a scraggy outcrop to deposit stones at the foot of a devotional cross. The land around them is stark, shrouded in mist, and littered with boulders.

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Sicily is a volcanic island, centered around Mount Etna which, at 10,900ft, is the tallest active volcano in the world. Etna – and its tendency to explode without warning – dominates the island and has created much of its ecosystem. The rest of the island is equally mountainous – in fact there is very little flat land. Where it's not mountainous, it has rolling hills and wide sweeping plateaux. The main characters walk through this grassy terrain as they head for the port, dressed in their finest attire and unaware of the horrors that await them. It's an act of great faith – and some naivete.

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Don't watch Nuovomondo expecting pretty pictures, at least not in the conventional sense (if you want gorgeous Italian landscapes, try The Talented Mr Ripley or The Big Blue). This is a darkly poetic film that offers a great opportunity to see the dramatic landscape of the inner island of Sicily – and lots of rocks. – Roshan McArthur

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  • TheNag

    March 25, 2008

    I didn’t know about this movie but now I’ll seek it out. I love Sicily after a trip there last year. Love your blog, especially the film bits.

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