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Sally Potter's The Gold Diggers (1983)

(Added 17 December 2010)


Sally Potter : I see this film as a musical describing a female quest. Making it has demanded asking the same questions during the working process as the film endeavours to ask about the connections between gold, money and women; about the illusion of female powerlessness; about the actual search for gold and the inner search for gold; about imagery in the unconscious and its relationship to the power of cinema; looking at childhood and memory and seeing the history of cinema itself as our collective memory of how we see ourselves and how we as women are seen. Working with two female central roles meant continuously asking how can I build/find characters and images of women that will serve our intelligence and mirror the complexities of our struggles.

(…) In the making of the film I used to go back, over and over again, to a remarkable phrase of Foucault about the metaphysics of money… The relationship between contemplation of the cosmos and knowledge of the glittering metals.

The marks of similitude, because they are a guide to knowledge, are addressed to the perfection of heaven; the signs of exchange, because they satisfy desire, are sustained by the dark, dangerous and accursed glitter of metal. An equivocal glitter, for it reproduces in the depths of the earth that other glitter that sings at the far end of the night; it resides there like an inverted promise of happiness and, because metal resembles the stars, the knowledge of all these perilous treasures is at the same time knowledge of the world. And thus reflection upon wealth has its pivot in the broadest speculation upon the cosmos, just as, inversely, profound knowledge of the order of the world must lead to the secret of metals and the possession of wealth. (Foucault)

(…) In much female literature, landscape has been used as a metaphor for the territory of the mind and the unconscious, and of course in films there’s often a quite comic connection, as at the moment of the kiss when thunder rumbles, lightning strikes and rain pours onto the barren land. Iceland seemed rich in metaphor of a kind appropriate to the film – the notion of the frozen self, the isolated self, with the hut as the body. Later, the frozen ice melts into water imagery, as more accessible consciousness that we can dive into. So the land is also a mutable element, a force. It’s part of the alchemical subtext. And on the associative level, Iceland seemed to fit the popular image of the Klondike. Desperate men in thousands did tramp out in extraordinary conditions, trying to find gold. It’s the epitome of the capitalist dream – you too can make it, if you try hard enough. At the same time, there’s a sort of rape-of-the-earth feel about it.

(…) The individual quest for gold is much more about helplessness, really, and longing…longing to beat the system and get rich quick. It’s also a longing at a deeper level, a more metaphysical level – it’s Holy Grail material in the form of the quest for gold nuggets.

- From an interview between Pam Cook and Sally Potter in the chapter, “The Gold Diggers”, from Screening the Past: Memory and Nostalgia in Cinema by Pam Cook (2005, Routledge).

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