“Realism, unfortunately, is not always so exciting and the film is the type of thing most viewers probably would struggle with enjoying because they want more action, happier endings and the like.”
by Martin Hafer
This is a western…of sorts. While it’s NOT about the American West and occurs a few years after the wild and crazy days of westward migration in North America, it looks like a western. It’s actually about the Canadian West during those crazy and dangerous days of the Klondike gold strikes. While the American gold rush of 1849-1850 is more famous (especially when you look at the number of films devoted to both), the Canadian rush of 1896-1899 was far more dangerous due to the climate and terrain of both Alaska (through which many of the prospectors came) and the Yukon. Into this mad rush is a group of German-speaking prospectors—including a single woman, Emily Meyer (Nina Hoss). However, the trek turns out to be not nearly as trouble-free and easy as the leader of the expedition says at the beginning of the film. There are lots of surprises, tons of peril and plenty of death. In fact, watching the film reminded me of the computer game ‘Oregon Trail,’ as practically every sort of disaster that could occur, does!
In many ways, Gold should be commended. While about 95% of the westerns you see are historical nightmares, Gold is very realistic. The natives are not uniformly hostile, the gunfights are not glorious and the film is, at times, a bit dull—because life there was a bit dull! It’s actually funny that it took a Bavarian (that’s in Germany) production company to make a realistic film about the western migration! Plus, it did make sense as despite what you see in other films, folks who did not speak English and who were recent immigrants are the sorts of folks who settled the West. We should have been seeing people like this in our films long ago. As a retired history teacher, this sort of film really excites me. However, and this is a big however most folks probably do want to see a mythical portrait of the West!! They like heroes, fights with Indian tribes, fist fights, shootouts on the main street and all the mostly wrong trappings of a typical western.
Realism, unfortunately, is not always so exciting and the film is the type of thing most viewers probably would struggle with enjoying because they want more action, happier endings and the like. So, Gold is definitely a film for a select audience—those who want realism, warts and all, instead of non-stop action and intrigue. As for the quality of the film, the acting and direction are just fine—very professional and competent. Also, while the film was apparently made in British Columbia and not the Yukon Territory (where the Klondike actually is), it’s awfully close and the brown hills definitely look a lot like the ones in the Yukon (I’ve visited the area). Worth seeing though even I must admit this film isn’t super-exciting and the ending is a bit of a downer.