Cinema Paradiso review

Number 47 on the top 1000 greatest films of all time is the 1999 Italian film: Cinema Paradiso (Cinema of Paradise)

The film opens on the main character Salvatore receiving the news that a person called Alfredo has died, which distresses him greatly.  The film the flashbacks to his childhood in the small Sicilian village Giancaldo a few years after World War 2.  Salvatore is depicted as a mischievous but kind-hearted child.  Whilst he underperforms in school, his greatest love is for the Cinema Paradiso, which is the heart of his small town.  The projectionist, Alfredo, mentors Salvatore in the ways of the cinema under the strict condition that once Salvatore is old enough, he will leave Giancaldo and the cinema to live the rest of his life.

I really liked this film, as it was deeply touching on a personal level,  Set only a few years after World War 2, fears of Fascism and Communism are still high and the destruction that the war caused is still evident.  However, the cinema is the fixture of the small town and a source of great pride.  This is why I enjoyed the film,.  It was heart-warming to see this community that had been damaged by the war be able to untie around the Cinema Paradiso.  This was a really nice idea and one that worked on screen.  It was so effective due to all of the different characters.  For example, one of the audience members is a man who falls asleep during every single screening.  The other audience members then try to throw things into his open mouth and he wakes up cursing and screaming.  This is a running joke throughout the film and one that works well.

As well as uniting a community, this film works so well, as it highlights the cinema’s effect on specific individuals.  For example, the cinema is deeply important to Salvatore as it gives him so much joy.  He fails academically, yet is able to succeed through working in the cinema.  The Cinema Paradiso is also a point of great pride for the projectionist Alfredo, as it gives him a sense of purpose.  The relationship between these two characters is one of the best parts of the film.  After Salvatore’s father dies in the war, Alfredo reluctantly acts as a surrogate father.  Alfredo is hesitant to teach Salvatore about being a projectionist, as he wants the child to do bigger and better things than sitting in a dusty projection room.

 However, despite Alfredo’s warnings, Salvatore cannot stay away.  The pair display a strong loyalty and friendship which is endearing to watch.  When a fire breaks out in the projection room trapping Alfredo inside, Salvatore selfless runs in and drags his friend out.  This moment was surprisingly dramatic and I was shocked to find myself so embroiled in the action.  Even though, Alfredo is blinded by the fire and the cinema is destroyed, the townspeople rally together to rebuild the cinema, employing Salvatore, who has been taught everything about projectionism from Alfredo, as the cinema’s projectionist.  These moments earmark the best parts of the film: how the love for cinema can bring out the best in people. 

Salvatore was given a love story which did not work.  Salvatore runs the projection room for ten years, from a small child to a young man.  And as a young man he falls in love with a girl called Elena.  Whilst it is only natural that this would happen, the love story felt contrived and forced.  Elena is initally dismissive of Salvatores affections and in response, he waits outside her window every night for her to change her mind.  Whilst he might think this is sweet and romantic, it is actually creepy and stalkerish.  What’s more surprising is that it actually works.  I can’t quite remember how this narrative ends or whether it is given a proper ending, but the fact that I can’t remember it signifies how weak a narrative it is.

This film is definitely one to watch.  Its different and intriguing narrative makes it entertaining to watch and it also mixes together well comedy and drama.  Just don’t expect too much from the weak love story. 


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