Thursday, November 26, 2009
Cinema Paradiso’s theme, “Life is not like in the movies,” may be integrated into the following symbolisms: the rusty anchors by the sea which are Toto’s collective force pinning him down in his non-progressing town and the deep blue sea beyond which is an opportunity-rich place that is always farther away sum up Toto’s boring, tragic life, so unlike hopeful, happy-ending movies. Meanwhile, the unwinding yarn knitted by Toto’s mother which is Toto’s untangling opportunity to destroy the past he visited and his gained recovery when he left Giancaldo synthesizes Toto’s life’s unbraided yet flawed self-return and self-rediscovery, so unlike the neatly-wrapped up, crafted movies. Lastly, the demolition of Cinema Paradiso which is a signal for moving on to reality is an anti-thesis for life as a fairy tale, so unlike the fantastic, perpetually ideal movies.
Sensing that the projectionist is a frustrated man, I think Alfredo was not right in breaking up Salvatore and Elena’s relationship just because he did not want Salvatore to tread the same fate as he did. Salvatore might have been successful in his career when he left Giancaldo and his girlfriend; nonetheless, his success was bittersweet because his love life was compromised and his jagged, insecure relationships were eventually put at expense. Alfredo had no right to impose on Salvatore the destiny he should fulfill, and for this, I assess that Alfredo is a miserable man desperate for a company in the embodiment of the love-disappointed Salvatore.
Teary-eyed Salvatore’s lingering look while watching the collection of kissing scenes is one of longing for a love that never was. There flashed movie scenes of passion that might well have been consummated in his own life, but his life is different from the movies—he was deprived of all romantic opportunities by trading these to the professional victory he savored at the moment. All he could do now was envy the kissing couples because he could have had a girl to exchange kisses with, yet he could not.
Compared to Salvatore’s character, Renato’s is, for me, the more sympathetic because he has seen his love Malena at her best and worst, and yet his passion for her did not diminish. While the successful Salvatore still came out a lonely man due to his dejections on love affairs, Renato evolved into a mature man for the love of Malena, despite all those liaisons with other girls. Whereas Salvatore was stuck in the past, Renato moved on by learning lessons on love.
I spotted the following symbolisms in Malena: The burning of the ant under the magnifying glass is the personification of Malena and her suffering under the scrutiny of the town. The people made Malena their subject, enslaved by the words people say against her. Eventually just like the ant, she got burned out too. Another is the hair that was Malena’s pride, beauty and life. It was the pride that rendered her formidable against the townsfolk’s scrutiny, the beauty the women of her town envied, and the colorful life she led as a mysterious wife, a reluctant prostitute and a battered victim of women’s wrath. Lastly, Renato’s throwing out into the sea of the record of Malena’s theme song for her husband is indicative of Renato’s letting go of Malena, who left her town in order to save face after her castigation by the women.
I think that Malena’s becoming a prostitute is well motivated because her basic need for food is at stake. While it is understood that she has to keep her dignity and morality intact, it was not beyond her to use her charm, albeit reluctantly, in order to feed her stomach and save herself in the process. For women like her who can see no brighter prospects in acquiring daily bread but through selling body, Malena does not meet any reason why she would not go to the proportions of surrendering herself to male objectification in exchange of something to eat. Her character is realistic enough for anyone of us to meet Malena in actual life: she is a human who is willing to shed her dignity and morality if her physical satisfaction is endangered.
Of the two movies, Malena touched me more because of the disturbing happenings in Malena’s prostitute life which is somewhat of a contrast with the relative lightness of Salvatore’s twisted love life in Cinema Paradiso. Malena taught me to be humble because I am blessed to have more than what I need while some people like Malena would go as far as be reduced to whoring in order to fill her stomach. Also, it taught me to love unconditionally, like Renato whose love for Malena did not expect to be returned as when the movie ended with his note, “The one I’ll remember is the only one who never asked.”