Artwork by Chloe
For me, when a movie can make me laugh and then cry in a matter of seconds it’s a good movie. Cinema Paradiso is a 1988 film directed by Giuseppe Tornatore and is one of my most favourite and cherished movies of all time. It’s a movie about movies and the impact they can have on people, more specifically on a small post-war Sicilian town and its two projectionists.
When this film starts we see a famous director in his lavish home get a call from his mother asking him to return home for a funeral of a close friend. After he hangs up he lies in bed and reminisces about his childhood.
Toto is a young, rebellious altar server who frequents his town’s cinema often (without his mother’s permission) and is infatuated by the projector and frequents the town’s projectionist, Alfredo, after movies. First annoyed by Toto’s peskiness, Alfredo soon befriends the young boy and teaches him how to work the projector and gives him small pieces of film, as well as advice in the form of quotes from famous classic Hollywood films; their friendship soon becomes similar to one of a father and son. When Alfredo is blinded after an accident it becomes Toto’s job to work the projector and provide his towns entertainment. For years he is responsible for not only their entertainment but also for their happiness. As he works in the theater he realizes how movies bond his entire town together, through laughs and even tears. When Toto grows from boy to man he begins to film his own movies, and continues to hold a strong relationship with Alfredo, (who still assists him in the projection room), and eventually falls in love with the daughter of a rich banker, Elena. When Toto comes back from a mandatory military service, heartbroken by the girl he loved he is encouraged by Alfredo to leave him and his small town behind to pursue bigger things, and to never come back.
The flashback ends and Toto, the older man we see in the beginning of the movie is back in his hometown after 30 years of never returning for the funeral of Alfredo, who died of old age. His town is drained of colour and empty, his beloved cinema abandoned and ready to be paved into a parking lot. After the funeral he is given a small film reel from Alfredo and watches it, creating one of the most heartbreaking and emotional endings I’ve ever seen.
Cinema Paradiso is a love letter to cinema, a celebration of the movies and to those who cherish them, whether they are simply watchers or creators. The music in this movie is absolutely phenomenal. Scored by Ennio Morricone this film is pillowed in a painfully nostalgic theme song that can bring tears to the strongest souls, young or old.
The first time I watched this movie I cried a bit, the second time I watched it I sobbed, the third time I watched it I used an entire tissue box. I don’t know why but this movie becomes more heartfelt each time you see it. For me, every time I see the young Toto peek his head through the projection room and into the theater I become overwhelmed with happiness. These feelings grow even stronger during the montages of the film patrons laughing and crying together and become strongest during the final scene, after Alfredo’s funeral.
No matter what age Toto is I can always relate to him and his feelings. Whether he’s a little boy who is enamoured by the cinema or as a lovelorn teenager who abandons his home to pursue his passion and even as an old man who returns to him home after 30 years I understand and feel his emotions. I think that because every time you watch the film you’re a bit older than last time you understand things a bit better, like why Alfredo wanted Toto to leave his home and never return. Once upon a time I never fully understood why Alfredo would want his best friend to leave him, now I know it’s because he wants to see him thrive and turn his passion into a career, something Alfredo was never able to do.
So, if you are a lover of a film foreign or not I believe Cinema Paradiso should be your next watch. It’s a fantastic tale of the magic movies can bring to its audiences and how it gave a young boy his entire life. It didn’t drastically change my life, but it’s a constant reminder of how important movies are to those who truly love them.