Sunday, 29 January 2017

Gold (4 Stars)

This film takes place in Canada in 1898. It's an unmotorised version of a road movie, since it deals with a journey across 1500 miles across rugged land, alternating mountains and forests. What stands out in my mind after watching it isn't so much the story, it's the beautiful panoramic cinematography. In recent years a lot of  fuss has been made about "The Hateful Eight", but "Gold" is just as magnificent, even without the 70 mm camera hype. The cinematography is much superior to other films like "The Revenant".

Emily Meyer (Nina Hoss) is a woman who emigrated from Germany in 1892. Since then she's been working as a handmaiden in Chicago. That's a long way to travel to become someone's slave, but even in the 19th Century America didn't always deliver what it promised. She answers a newspaper advertisement and joins an expedition of Germans heading to Klondike in north west Canada, where gold has been discovered. The expedition's leader is Wilhelm Laser, a man who found gold in Klondike in 1896 and is now running a group to guide fellow Germans to make their fortunes.

That's the point where Emily should have been suspicious. If Wilhelm Laser had become so rich from digging for gold, why didn't he stay where he was and find even more for himself? Why did he need to charge $500 per person as a tour guide? Could it be that he could earn more as a tour guide than as a gold digger? That's the only logical conclusion. I'm just as sceptical of money-making schemes today. If someone sells me a book for $20 about how to make money fast it's obvious that the author makes more money from the book sales than from the scheme he's recommending.

Anyway, only three other Germans are as gullible as Emily. A fifth person is travelling with the group, a German news reporter, who doesn't plan to stay in Klondike. His only intention is to write about the gold rush for the people of Germany. There's also a packer with them, whose only job seems to be looking after the horses.

Soon after the journey begins the worst suspicions become true. I mean my worst suspicions, the people in the party never expected problems. Wilhelm Laser sits struggling with maps, and it's clear that he doesn't know the way. A few days later he attempts to desert the party in the middle of the night. The five Germans take their money back and sentence him to death by hanging. That's frontier justice at its best. After this they decide to continue to Klondike without him. The packer can evidently read maps better.

They continue on across the hostile terrain, through woods and plains, through valleys and over mountains. As the journey continues their horses die, and the group becomes smaller as one by one they're no longer able to continue.

The film is carried by Nina Hoss's magnificent acting. She plays a woman who's as hard as nails, a woman who's learnt to keep her emotions under control. She's the perfect prototype of a 19th Century pioneer woman. Strong but feminine. Her role cements her position as one of Germany's most talented actresses.

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