Cinema Paradiso tells the story of Toto/Salvatore, a successful film maker who returns to his hometown after 30 years when he learned that his good friend, Alfredo, passed away. The night before he came back, he had a recollection of his past life in his small town where he developed this profound friendship with Alfredo, Cinema Paradiso's (the theater in his town that Toto frequented when he was just a boy) projectionist.
For some movie critics, this movie talks about a lot of things such as movies per se, the Italian culture, love and relationships, etc. but what moved me is the film's lesson on friendship, enthusiasm and dreaming. I am a people person and I love gaining friends, not the superficial type wherein you just enjoy being with each other.. but more of the Alfredo-Toto kind of friendship. It's about learning and standing by each other even when worse comes to worst. It was a friendship bounded to last even if they haven't seen each other for years. It's not the kind that refuses to let go of someone dear even if it means pursuing his dreams. Sometimes we just have to let go of our loved ones for them to find what will truly make them happy.. as I believe that what would make them happy would also mean fulfillment on my part.
Talk about dreams.. when I was little, like Toto, I had my share of aiming for something. I would often make paper dolls and paper outfit for my friends' paper dolls; draw my dream house; compete in poster making contests; keep a sketch pad and coloring books... I thought I was going to be an Architect, an Interior Designer or a Fashion Designer, but this dream of getting into the Arts didn't materialize. I guess I was just afraid of making an initial step in turning my dreams into reality. I'm not only speaking for myself, I know for a fact that a lot of people don't really get to fulfill their dreams due to fears, lack of means or lack of support from their loved ones. And I admire Toto because of his consistency when it comes to his ambition -- that is to get into something that involves movies, thus, after much trials he was able to make it as a well-known film maker.
I am deeply touched by how an old man developed affection for a little rascal like Toto. It made me realize that friendship knows no age bracket. Also, it is touching how it shows that "fatherhood" isn't always about "blood".. it's a relationship that goes beyond being of the same kin. It's a wonderful feeling of being accepted, supported and loved.
This movie may be a bit sentimental, but it's not like those where you'd see yourself crying all throughout the film. I think I just shed a tear twice -- when Alfredo came in to see Toto in Cinema Paradiso after he met an accident (when the theater caught on fire and Alfredo was burned). I felt the old man's gratitude to Toto for saving his life. Another part that made me teary eyed was the last part wherein Toto watched a film that contained all the kisses that were removed from the movies shown at the Paradiso over the years (kissing scenes were edited out from movies, as imposed by the church/priest). It was assembled by Alfredo as a gift to Toto. The film was beautiful that as Salvatore watches it, tears came running from his eyes.
Cinema Paradiso also involved stories about falling in love, trying out, fighting for your love, disappointments, getting hurt and moving on.. but it didn't get into me as much as what stories on friendship and dreaming did to me. I guess it's because the tale of love in this film isn't the same as what we're going through in present time.. I don't know, or perhaps I was just keen on friendship and the type of culture that Italian people depicted in this film rather than focus on Elena, Toto's one true love. But you know, even in Toto's love life, Alfredo's thoughts also mattered and it always boils down to: going after what your heart says.
Alfredo: Once upon a time, a king gave a feast. And there came the most beautiful princesses of the realm. Now, a soldier, who was standing guard, saw the king's daughter go by. She was the most beautiful one, and he immediately fell in love with her. But what could a poor soldier do when it came to the daughter of the king? Well, finally, one day, he managed to meet her, and he told her that he could no longer live without her. The princess was so impressed by his strong feelings that she said to the soldier: "If you can wait 100 days and 100 nights under my balcony, then at the end of it, I shall be yours." Damn! The soldier immediately went there and waited one day. And two days. And ten. And then twenty. And every evening, the princess looked out of her window, but he never moved. During rain, during wind, during snow, he was always there. The bird shat on his head, and the bees stung him, but he didn't budge. After ninety nights, he had become all dried up, all white, and the tears streamed from his eyes. He couldn't hold them back. He no longer had the strength to sleep. All that time, the princess watched him. And on the 99th night, the soldier stood up, took his chair, and went away.
Salvatore: ... In one more night, the princess would have been his. But she also could not possibly have kept her promise. And it would have been terrible. He would have died. This way, however, at least for 99 days, he was living under the illusion that she was there, waiting for him.
Not crying while watching this film doesn't mean it's not poignant, believe me, I'm so moved I even told my friend Duchess I'm gonna lend her the disc next time we meet.
Alfredo: Living here day by day, you think it's the center of the world. You believe nothing will ever change. Then you leave: a year, two years. When you come back, everything's changed. The thread's broken. What you came to find isn't there. What was yours is gone. You have to go away for a long time... many years... before you can come back and find your people. The land where you were born. But now, no. It's not possible. Right now you're blinder than I am.Salvatore: Who said that? Gary Cooper? James Stewart? Henry Fonda? Eh?Alfredo: No, Toto. Nobody said it. This time it's all me. Life isn't like in the movies. Life... is much harder.
Yes, Alfredo, LIFE IS MUCH MUCH HARDER...
Shit happens... and you just have to deal with it. ;)