Cinema Paradiso is a comforting film. It’s a cure for loneliness because it lifts you out of your reality and places you into a poignant and wistful one. However, once you get too close to the bliss that it emanates, it covers you in a blanket of melancholia and longing.
The story is one of those sentimental and unyielding kinds. You feel more than you can see. It’s visually charming; the projection booth, the black-and-white films, the noisy and worn-down theatre, the seats that flood the hall, and the plethora of human faces, all wide-eyed and gaping at the projector screen.
All these things seep under your skin and become a physical part of you – unwilling to let go. Within this caricature, this sacred space where you can simply let yourself go, you can experience life and longing; love and heartbreak; youth and maturity.
The film’s main character, Salvatore Di Vita cherishes not just films but also his paternal relationship with Alfredo. He sits in that projection room to learn how to use it, he watches and memorizes films through a square hole in the wall, and sits next to a lonely man in the theatre watching him mouth all the words of the film before their time.
This makes up his childhood; he feels the dream-images on the screen ignite all the childlike passions he has, curses and yells when the film’s about to end.
The hall that is home to the world of cinema makes a special home in his heart. That’s Salvatore Di Vita’s childhood. His first job, his first love, his first heartbreak, his lonely voyage into himself. All I wanted to do while I was watching the film was to be there with him. Live my lost and distant childhood emulating his.
Cinema Paradiso is beautifully-made as it unmasks all such phases of life. I think it’s a mistake to see them as phases though; as something that has an end right from the start.
You can think of them as shades that intensify and wrap you in happy and sad moments. You learn to let them go not because they no longer serve you but because you don’t serve them.
Life is not merely sorrow or misery or pain, this is made even clearer because of films like Cinema Paradiso. One by one, we meet ourselves without resistance the same way we meet people on the cinema screen. We are the actors that we see unfolding in front of our eyes set in motion to the tunes of chance and reality.