Monday, January 01, 2007


Movie of the week:

When you hear of stories of people who make great sacrifices for art's sake, you should think of this film.

Mario has just been made postman of his village on a small Mediterranean island near Italy. He’s been made postman because he’s one of only a handful of people who can actually read and write, on the island. The postman’s not very busy. People who don’t read or write usually don’t send or receive much mail. In fact, other than work-eat-sleep, the village folk don’t do much of anything. There's not much to talk about as nothing much ever happens. Change is virtually non-existent, and there's not much ever to look forward to. It’s like the town that time forgot. All that changes, at least for Mario, when for a short time, the great Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda, comes in exile, to live on the island.

Neruda receives and sends mail all the time, and so Mario is always going out to his place to deliver. The two men begin a friendship. Mario's mind is opened by the older man’s writings, and he asks him to help him write poems of his own so that he can woo the beautiful Beatrice. He teaches him the beauty, rhythm, and power of words. Once his mind is opened as pertains to love, he is able to woo her – but his mind doesn’t stop there. There is no end to great causes for one to be passionate about.

This film is about change and about growth. It’s a feel-good movie that reinforces positive social values. You just can’t help but to root for the low man. In its quiet and beautiful way, it teaches us that a lot of the old adages are true. The pen IS mightier than the sword. Love IS the greatest motivation. One man CAN change the world.

Filmed on location off the coast of Italy, it’s in Italian with various appropriate subtitles. If you allow an aversion to subtitles to prevent you from watching it, you will have missed one of the most beautifully themed and filmed movies of the past umpteen years. It scored a 92% on the tomatometer, and was nominated for numerous Academy Awards, including the major ones: Best Actor, Best Director, Best Picture, and Best Screenplay.

In the first sentence, I mentioned something about “sacrifice”. Massimo Troisi, an Italian actor-director, who co-wrote the screenplay for this film, and who plays the main character, Mario – postponed heart surgery in order to insure completion of this movie. He was aware of his condition and knew he needed treatment, but decided that it was more important to finish the film first. Literally 12 hours after the cameras stopped rolling, he suffered a fatal heart attack and died. I suspect that he only lasted as long as he did through sheer act of will, refusing death until the project was finished. This sounds to me like a movie plot of its own.



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