A Look At A Postman
Movies that take us to the beaches of Normandy during World War II, or through the mind of a schizophrenic, are mainly meant to teach. Those that sit us down in a space-ship going the speed of light, or those that star a talkative and witty cat, are mainly meant to entertain. The best movies, however, are those like the Italian film, Il Postino, (The Postman) which do both; teach and entertain.
Taking place in Italy during the 1950’s, a sensitive, simple, unemployed young man, around twenty-five years old, gets a job as a postman. His boss, a short moustached communist named Giorgio, assigns the new postman to one important address; that of the famous and beloved Chilean poet exiled in Italy, Pablo Neruda. The postman, Mario, befriends the poet, with the hope of getting his signature. Neruda not only signs, but introduces Mario to the ideals of communism, and to the writings of Dante.
While the postman is reading one afternoon in Vino e Cucina, his neighborhood’s eatery, he falls in love with the establishment’s waitress, Beatrice. Mario quickly dashes off to Neruda, and asks him for help in winning Beatrice’s hand. The poet of love helps his new friend do this, and the couple wed. Soon after, Neruda receives news from Chile that his exile has been repealed, and he returns to his homeland with a heavy heart because he will miss his new friend. Mario too, although newly married, and in love, is heavy hearted because of Neruda’s departure. However, Mario continues to write his elementary poetry, continues to read, and continues to stay active in his village’s budding political life.
Il Postino is adapted from the novella “Burning Patience”, by the Chilean writer Antonio Skarmeta. Its screenplay is in Italian, and so this story is subtitled. The writing, however, is wonderful. It activates many different emotions, so for those who aren’t accustomed to reading subtitles, Il Postino is an exceptional film as an introduction to foreign movies. The emotional treat is in full swing when Mario tells Neruda of his love for Beatrice. Neruda casually says that there is a remedy for the postman’s sickness. Mario, however, passionately declares that he wants to remain sick, he wants to remain in love. And when Mario asks Neruda the profound question of how to become a poet, Neruda suggests that Mario remain a postman because all poets are fats, whereas all postmen get acres of exercise. And of course, the laughs explode when Beatrice’s old-fashioned aunt, angry that her virgin niece has been won, brandishes a rifle through her bedroom window, and vows to shoot Mario on sight.
The film’s scenery compliments its lively, emotion packed screenplay by being just as varied. Mario’s walk along the pebbled sea-shore at sunset, with the shallow, motionless water as his flank, is wonderfully serene. The hills, which Mario must bicycle through in order to get to the house Neruda is staying in, are steep, covered with a light forest, snaked by a path of gravel, and therefore a world away from the shores below. The home in which the poet lives, is a short, pink and green concrete house, with potentially claustrophobic rooms. They avoid this, however, because of the endless air and sunshine which the many little windows let in. There is also a long concrete-floored patio at the house’s side, rustically furnished with a rectangular wooden table and bench. And of course, high up in the mountains, there is a heavenly back-yard view where the two friends can see the blue and green ocean for dozens of miles.
Overall, Il Postino is one of the best. Cliches be forbidden. Enjoy.