“The simpler the story, the more complex we can afford to be…”
Immigration to the United States has certainly been a complexly demographic phenomenon. At the same time, we thank its historical existence for population growth and for the preciousness of cultural change. In the broadest sense, when pertaining to the U.S.– the economic, social, and political aspects of immigration bring out the controversies we may or may not wish to deny: the pros and cons of evolving ethnicity, economic benefits, jobs for non-immigrants, settlement patterns, impact on upward social mobility, crime, and voting behavior which drive politics and seeking consulates. Yet, the ways in which these very problems are regurgitated seem to only come through the fire of politics, and even, in the most unfortunate circumstances, un-deniable, historical discrimination – of course, towards sex and ethnicity. Have we ever correctly assessed these problems without being solely empathetic?
In lieu of the recent film, The Immigrant, directed by James Gray, immigration is arguably more or less ‘glorified’ in the classicism of this pre-set period. By reducing our span of history and bringing back forth the events of immigration in the 1920s, we are reminded that in fact, mostly men composed the majority of immigrants until the 30s– posing the imbalance of women again, as history re-counts, to struggle beyond social justice: to be denied on ‘liberty’s borders’ from seeming and endless opportunity.
But the beauty of this work does not lie in its content: it lies in the reduction in complexity of passion and human drama to en-impacte subtlety– pure encounters, impromptu responses, and innocent unfamiliarity.
As Gray remarks, he intends for the simplicity between the characters of this film to serve as a device: one that we can compensate for the very ambiguity of history in the moment, which, in turn, yearns for our desire to pay more attention to and offer more thought for “human behavior.” Thus, if we set aside what we know about U.S. immigration, perhaps we can allow ourselves to indulge in the ‘nothingness’ of Marion Cotillard and Joaquin Phoenix. In this way, the potential of the ‘un-biased’ viewer to have their heart operate on the philosophy of love to not ‘exist in the air’ or ‘in space,’ becomes a play-on love as simply being. The potential which allows love TO BE the allegory of dependence and need between two very opposite, mundane strangers is thus, permitted, through fragile, human delicacy, and most conclusively, simplicity.