( Spoiler Alert: Some key scenes and moments are discussed in the review).
Of all the countries in Europe, none, fascinated me more than Italy . It could be because of it’s fascinating history. It is a country whose political and legal system is ridden with corruption from top to bottom, yet it’s citizens live with a zest for life, rarely seen anywhere, except maybe in India. But in the Western world, no country can match the sheer passion and creative spirit of the Italians . Look at the geniuses produced by them, Michelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci, Dante, Boticelli, Verdi in the field of arts, and in the field of science we have Galileo, Marconi, Fermi, while authors like Umberto Eco enrich the literary field. And what would the world of cinema be without Fellini, Antonioni, Vittorio De Sica, Sergio Leone,Sophia Loren, Robert de Niro, Al Pacino, Coppola, Scorcese? And can we imagine fashion without Armani or Milan? Only in Italy could we have masterpieces like David, Mona Lisa, the Last Supper . Only an Italian could come up with some thing like a Ferrari.
Post war Italian cinema showcased the passion and culture of the land, as well as it’s artistic ingenuity, in a host of movies like The Bicycle Thieves, La Dolce Vita, 8 ½, Cinema Paradiso to name a few. And of course Italy being the land of Romeo and Juliet, and also the land of die hard romantics, it is only natural, that one of the finest love stories comes from there. The 1994 movie Il Postino or the Postman( not to be confused with Kevin Costner’s dud of the same name). If you are tired of watching Mills & Boon love stories, where the lead characters are impossibly rich and handsome, and if you want to see love in it’s purest form, watch this movie.
Il Postino is the story of Mario Ruopollo (Massio Trossi) the son of a fisherman in a remote Italian island. The famous Chilean poet Pablo Neruda( Phillipe Noiret) is exiled from his country due to his communist leanings, and in 1952 comes to that island as an exile. Mario does not want to follow his father, and loves to dream and laze around. Now though Neruda is living as an exile, his popularity has not waned, and he still receives a lot of mail, from his admirers around the world. Mario’s life takes a turn when he is appointed as a postman to deliver the mail personally to Neruda .
As he delivers the mail, Mario is fascinated by Neruda , and he starts to idolize him. He is curious as well as eager to know more about him. Neruda initially doesn’t think much of Mario, but he slowly softens up, and starts to teach him poetry. Mario is especially fascinated that most of the poet’s admirers are women, and he wants to use poetry as a means of attracting the woman he loves, the most beautiful girl in the island, Beatrice(Maria Grazia Cucinotta), a bar maid. Neruda in a reluctant way, helps Mario to discover himself, and assists in him winning his love. After their wedding, Neruda, leaves back to Chile .
Mario totally takes to Neruda’s communist beliefs, but more out of his devotion to the poet, rather than any ideological reason. But as time flies by Mario , finds his life totally empty. His love for Beatrice is not the same, and he is unable to bear Neruda’s absence either. When a mail from Neruda’s assistant comes, asking him to hand over all of his belongings on the island, Mario feels worthless, he feels he has not achieved anything at all, and that’s why the poet had forgotten him. How Mario finally achieves his ambition at a tragic cost, is what the movie is about? Though a love story, Il Postino’s over riding theme is that of friendship between two unlikely individuals. Pablo Neruda a world famous poet, a man of letters, a scholar and Mario , a semi literate person, and that is the movie’s strength.
The slow and gradual way in which this friendship is built up, is what makes the movie so endearing. In fact more than friendship, it is Mario’s total devotion to Neruda, that is significant. Though doing quite well in life, and marrying the woman he loved, Mario, bases his entire life on Neruda. He feels worthless when Neruda, doesn’t reply to him, after he has left the island. He yearns to be recognized so much, that he tapes all the sounds of the island as a remembrance to the poet, and he also composes a poem in honor of Neruda. Watch out for the climax that could just leave you overwhelmed emotionally. Love is dealt with in the purest form here. This is not a standard rich handsome Wall Street kind of guy, falling in love with a working class girl, kind. Mario is a total loser, semi literate, no steady job, and he cant even express himself to his love. And that’s what makes this love story so touching. It is realistic and straight from the heart.
The various attempts by Mario to win the heart of his lady love are wonderful, and you find yourself, wanting him to win that girl. The camera work is exemplary and wonderfully captures the beauty of the fishing village, its sights, the sea, the sea gulls, the rocky cliffs. And of course the wonderful music score by Luis Bacalov. The movie would not have been what it was without some solid acting by the lead performers. As Mario, Massimo Troisi , gives one of the best performances. Sensitive, straight from the heart, never going over the top, this is a performance you will live with long after you have seen the movie. Sadly, you would never such a performance again from him, because he died, after the completion of this movie in 1994 itself. What a loss to the world of cinema.
French actor Phillipe Noiret , who acted in another Italian classic Cinema Paradiso, is top notch here as Pablo Neruda . Especially his reactions in the final scene, when he learns of Mario’s death. Maria Grazia Cucinotta is charming and does enact her role well enough too. Watch this movie to see what true love and friendship is all about. This is a movie which will stay with you long after the credits are done.