Cinema Paradiso – Nityaansh Parekh, 11J

An Ode to Alfredo
(Excerpt from the essay)
As the Princess walked past the soldier, his heart jumped. The entirety of his being trembled as he realized how deeply he was in love with her. Overcome with emotion, he told the king’s daughter that he could no longer live without her. The princess was taken aback by the depth of his feelings. She told him, “If you can wait under my balcony for a hundred days and a hundred nights, I shall be yours.” And a day passed. Two days. Ten days. Twenty. Each day the princess looked from above and saw the soldier unmoving, waiting patiently for the requital of his love. Thunder shook the sky, rain dampened his clothes and still, he sat there waiting for her. Bees stung his worn face, birds dropped feces on his slumped shoulders, and he sat there, waiting for her. After ninety days, he was but a husk of the person he used to be. His eyes were wet with tears, that wouldn’t stop rolling down his dry, pale face. He didn’t have the strength to sleep. All the while, the princess watched him from above. On the ninety-ninth night, the soldier stood up, took his chair, and left.
Alfredo narrated this tale to Toto, who with the naivety of youth, looked askance at the old projectionist, wondering why the Soldier left on the ninety-ninth day …

Cinema Paradiso is one of the most beautiful movies I’ve seen this year. I’ll go as far as to say that it’s my all-time favorite movie too!
“Toto!” screamed Father Adelfio waking the poor boy who had fallen asleep during mass and had forgotten to ring the bell. This boy was Salvatore Di Vita. Or Toto, as everyone called him. He is our main character. Oh, how much he was fascinated by movies. He slipped into the Cinema Paradiso (in the village square) ever so often, and also into the projection room where the projectionist Alfredo sat. Alfredo. The warm (sometimes grumpy) Alfredo. He had grown quite attached to Toto. Having shook on a deal with him, Alfredo allowed Toto into the projection room and even taught him how to operate the projector. One of the many magical moments in the movie is when the cinema gets crowded and in order to appease the people who weren’t permitted to come in, Alfredo reflects the projection onto a wall in the village square. Everyone gathers and watches the movie. Even louder than the cheers and cries of the people was Toto’s admiration of Alfredo. Unfortunately, the reel catches fire and bursts into Alfredo’s face, ironically stealing the sight of a projectionist.

Nuovo Cinema Paradiso was the new cinema that replaced the fire-ravaged Cinema Paradiso. Toto takes up the mantle of his blind mentor, Alfredo. The film beautifully depicts the passage of time; Alfredo covers Toto’s face with his hand and says, “I know. Now I’ve lost my sight. But I see better.” He then moves his hand to reveal Toto as a young man, still looking up to Alfredo.
This is just the first hour of the movie. A tale of misbegotten love and heart break follows, so much so, that I will be unable to describe it all, in the margins set for this entry. I will say this much – Toto falls truly in love with Elena, but as deemed by fate, their being together wasn’t meant to be. Alfredo, closest to Toto, seeing the state of his misery, tells him to leave Giancaldo, to leave the cinema, the people, to leave everyone and everything behind and start a life afresh. “I don’t want to hear you. I want to hear about you.” He wanted to Toto to fulfill his passion. He wanted him to never look back, to never visit, to never call and to come back several years later only when his gushing wounds turn into scars, to connect with his land without the misery of a lost love aching his fragile heart. Toto returns after many years, to perform the rites at Alfredo’s funeral.

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