According to the dictionary meaning, nostalgia is “a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.” Cinema Paradiso, a movie by Giuseppe Tornatore, touches greatly on the concept of nostalgia based on changes in time, memories, myths, and cinematic techniques. Shirley Law states on her article, Film, Memory and Nostalgia in Cinema in Cinema Paradiso (Nuovo Cinema Paradiso) (2003), that the film, “is a postmodern nostalgia film in so far as it is set in the historical past but, rather than attempt to recreate the truth or reality of life in post-war Italy, the film explores the notion that it is not possible for us to know the past fully, or to accurately conjure it up.
” The film reminisces the nostalgia through flashback based on the memories of the character Salvatore Di Vita, a successful filmmaker in Rome who leaves home after being told to never come back.
The film uses cinematic techniques such as sound to signify bringing back memories and connecting it to the present.
We hear the sound of a bell tinkling as Salvatore enters his home in the present time. After Salvatore hears the news that his mother called announcing the death of Alfredo, the projectionist who served as Salvatore’s father figure, we see him lying to his side and hear sounds of thunders. We hear the sound of the thunders increasing as the camera zooms into Salvatore’s face and before it flashbacks to his past, we hear the tinkle of the bell once more.
The sound, camera movement, and the news delivered to him shows us that Alfredo was an important person in his life and that he is thinking about the past. “The sound of the wind-chimes gives way to a brewing thunderstorm and the strains of Morricone’s melancholic chords create the mood for regression, interiority and personal reflection” (Law 2003). In the flashback we hear the priest ringing the bell, which meant a kiss scene had to be cut off from a film and the sound of the thunderstorm when Helen, his love interest, appears and kisses him. The thunder and bell signifies the connection of past memories Salvatore has of his home he’s been away from.
In the film, we see that the community enjoyed coming together in the Paradiso to watch movies. “Cinema was ‘the leading art of the cultural and social processes of postwar Italian life” (Law 2003). The people in town escaped reality by immersing themselves in the world of the screen. We are more preoccupied watching the audience than the content shown on the screen. The sense of community is created with all the people in town coming to watch a film. The man who delivered the line before the actors delivered it on screen and the man who was willing to explain the plot of the movie that was not being shown represents how much the town was absorbed in films at that time. Cinema provided a temporary paradise, but the invention of home DVDs and the decreasing numbers of people coming together to watch films shows that things change with time (class discussion). At the end of the film, we see people come together to watch the demolishing of the Paradiso. We see Salvatore and the owner of Paradiso’s sad reaction and we feel them reminiscing the good times that the people in town shared.
Alfredo tells Salvatore to go to Rome and never come back. It is through Alfredo that Salvatore becomes who he is in the present. Alfredo tells him, “Life isn’t like the movies, it’s much harder…go back to Rome.” Alfredo implies that life in Sicily is not the place for Salvatore if he wants to develop his talent and love for film and that he must move on. We see the concept of longing of new life in the beginning of the film when Salvatore says farewell to one of his classmates because his family was moving to Rome for a new life. When Salvatore comes back from the military, we see there is nobody outside in the streets of town and he is losing his sense of place in the city. Salvatore being away from home for 30 years and after all those years and hearing the news of Alfredo’s death brings back all feelings and memories that was not appreciated and thought of for a long time.
It is through moving on and leaving things behind that allows one to appreciate what is left behind. When Salvatore comes back home for Alfredo’s funeral, we see him in a taxi watching all the changes that occured while he was away. For example, in the beginning of the film we saw horses, but in the present there are roads for cars. Seeing all the physical changes of the town makes us believe that so much has changed with time, but we quickly realize that a lot of things stayed the same. During the walk of the funeral, Salvatore sees the people he knew when he was young and realizes they are all the same and the only difference is that they aged. In the early parts of the film, there is a crazy man that keeps claiming the square as his property, and in the present he is still doing the same. Salvatore says, “Now after all these years I thought that I’d forgotten a lot of things. I find I’m back where I was as if I’d never been away.”
When Salvatore returns home, his mother is knitting and when he arrives she gets up and the knitting unravels. According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, Penelope is the wife of hero Odysseus who waits for her husband to return from the Trojan War. She promised she will remarry once she finishes weaving a shroud but with hope that her husband will come back; she unravels pieces of it to avoid remarrying. The unweaving of Salvatore’s mother’s knitting represents the years of waiting being over and Salvatore being back home where there was always a place for him. Salvatore’s mother shows his room where she placed things from his childhood such as his bike, projector, and photographs. This scene accompanies with music that evokes emotion, which shows that Salvatore is reminiscing his past and remembers the home he thought he forgot.
It is through connection of sounds, visual differences between past and present, relationships, and mythical references, that we see the concept of nostalgia throughout the film. It is through Salvatore’s memories and his life from childhood to adulthood that shows how much things changed and at the same time how they stayed the same. The beginning of the film, Salvatore’s mother assured that he will remember the city and Salvatore lets us know that his experience there was what made him who he is today and nothing can change that. To conclude, it is through Alfredo’s last gift to Salvatore that explains why leaving things behind helps you realize what is yours. The compilations of the censored kisses was left behind for him just as Alfredo promised when he told him as a child that the films were his (class discussion).