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The Claim

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Original title
The Claim
Running time
120 min.
United Kingdom United Kingdom
Frank Cottrell Boyce (Novel: Thomas Hardy)
Michael Nyman
Alwin H. Kuchler
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Revolution Films / DB Entertainment / Grosvenor Park. Distributed by United Artists / Pathé Pictures International
Western. Drama. Romance
Movie Groups
Thomas Hardy Adaptations
Synopsis / Plot
The story begins twenty years after the Gold Rush of 1849, which prompted one of the largest human migrations in history, as a half-million people from around the world descended in droves upon primal California in search of rumored gold. Daniel Dillon (Peter Mullan) is a pioneer who defied the harsh winter landscape and amassed unimaginable riches, becoming the veritable king of a thriving mountain town called Kingdom Come, where he owns everything of importance, including the bank, the mine, the hotel and the liquor store. He even has won the affections of the exotic local brothel owner Lucia (Milla Jovovich).
Now the blind ambition and greed that drove him to succeed are about to catch up with him as three strangers come into town. One is Mr. Dalglish (Wes Bentley), a surveyor looking to expand the Central Pacific Railroad into Kingdom Come, threatening to make or break the future of the town. The other are two women - the beautiful young Hope (Sarah Polley) and the ailing Elena (Nastassja Kinski) - who hold secrets from Dillon's past that could be his undoing. Even in this land of immense landscapes, and even bigger changes, the most remarkable shifts of all still take place in the heart.

Inspired by Thomas Hardy's 1886 moral fable "The Mayor of Casterbridge", screenwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce has brought Hardy's themes of retribution, revenge and redemption into this rarely seen Western milieu.

The American West has always been a repository of dreams, a place where cowboys, lawmakers, rustlers and gunslingers chased hopes that seemed larger and grander than life itself. Their stories have been told and re-told from new perspectives. But there is another story about the West that has never been re-imagined until now: the legends of the Gold Rush and the bold, driven pioneers who took on the extreme landscapes of the Sierra Nevada.
Michael Winterbottom's The Claim stakes out this adventurous territory, with a raw, romantic tale of stark beauty and primal authenticity about how dreams collided with greed in the making of California. His is an epic story of love, passion and redemption set against the harsh landscape of the Sierra Nevada.
The Claim brings to life the heady days when California was the last frontier, the final untamed wilderness - and makes intensely personal a time that transformed the entire nation.
This was one of the most frenzied and ambitious periods in American history. It was a time of tremendous expansion, but also unmitigated destruction and disaster, of all-out adventure, and of families torn apart. The forces set loose by the Gold Rush would create a new world, but those in the middle of it watched as life the way they knew it was forever altered.
With The Claim, director Michael Winterbottom forges a new picture of an ethnically diverse, dynamically in-flux West that gives audiences an unusual entrée into the visceral reality of Gold Rush times. He also brings his trademark ability to get on the inside of his characters' skins to a story of passion and pursuit set in this fascinating era. For The Claim is not only the grand story of how California was tamed but a more intimate tale about the ravages of blind ambition, the complexities of love and the timeless power of forgiveness.
2001: Berlin Film Festival: Official Selection
2001: British Independent Film Awards (BIFA): Nom. for Best Director and Screenplay
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