The opening seconds of The Immigrant show the film’s title on a black screen. The lettering turns from white to red. White – purity and innocence; red – bloodlust, passion, danger. The imagery is simple enough, but our subconscious picks up on the change of colour and what psychological convention has taught us that each signify. A ship glides past an out-of-focus Statue of Liberty; the quintessential symbol of arriving to America, of beginning the American Dream, of starting a new, and better, life – and yet it is cloaked in a foggy haze and too far away to be within reach. There seems to be little room for idealism or hope upon arriving in the New World.
During the deep freeze that hit North America last week I watched a news report on how the homeless men and women of Washington DC were handling the extreme cold. They huddled together, warming their hands on cups of tea given out by a local charity. One man, beaming a toothless smile, said “It’s the survival of the fittest, man!” As much as America is a land of opportunity and the American Dream remains a dream for the Jay Gatsby’s amongst us; for many it is a dog-eat-dog struggle. Whether this is a fight against the injustice of homelessness, the harshness of Mother Nature, the feds, the mob, or even yourself, it is about doing what you have to do to survive.