Without being pushy, and without saying much of anything, this film stands
out as a magnificent achievement in directing and acting. Few films will
ever stand out in your imagination as much as this one does, with such a
wonderful story, though sad, but so very strong that it just hits you like
the wind. This, unlike most films, is really, in the Godard'ian sense, a
"poetic" film, rather than a film about a story that happens to have some
poetry in it.
It is the story of a poet that has been exiled in his original country,
Chile, and he has been given asylum in Italy. But Italy's political
situation is not clear, and Pablo Neruda, was often accused of being a
communist, rather than a poet that lived his words. So he is given a place,
out in the middle of nowhere, where there is no media, and very little
brouhaha for him to attract any attention. Authorities often hope that the
writer kinda fades away, but leaves behind some of the writing.
And in this old, run down place, that still has no running water, no jobs
for anyone except fishing, takes to its famous person, through a young man
that has been hired by the local post office just so that he can bike up the
mountain to deliver the mail to the poet. And there, in time, they become
friends, or at least, as far as the postman is concerned a valuable friend.
As the story develops, the postman finally gets a chance to meet someone he
is in love with, Beatrice. And the story really starts. The postman, becomes
a bit of a poet himself, although his words are not exactly as good
metaphors as the poet's own work. It works anyway, despite the mother's
agitated concerns that the words are obscene. She takes the words to the
local priest, who declares it a poem, but does not say
much else. He is convinced that communists eat babies and hate religion.
Even when he sees the poet in his own church... the scene is slipped by
rather quickly... nice touch.
The postman and the girl finally marry. And the poet gets his exile revoked
in Chile and he is off to his homeland.
>From here on, the story takes on really different proportions. While the
poet is here the words and the metaphors help enliven the place. As soon as
he is gone, the local politicians take over with lies. One promises to build
up the water system, and starts the program until the day he gets elected,
at which point the construction stops. He doesn't need the vote anymore. He
is in. It's a good thing, because the poet would have definitely said
something if he had seen this.
And in the end, we find that the postman, who has not received any letters
from the poet, creates a "live" poem for Pablo Neruda. It involves many of
the wonderful sounds that the place has, that one can hear at any time, from
the wind, to the waves, to the fishing nets.
One day, Pablo returns with his wife. The postman died. The wife was left
with a boy named Pablito after the poet, and a tape of the "live" poem that
the postman. The postman had remarked many times that he is not famous and
that there was no reason for the poet to remember him. But he has made a
larger impression on everyone else. It seems that the postman fainted and
dies at the demonstration that would have been his crowing success. What has
become a "communist" party, mainly a direct opposition to the corrupt
officials, like the one that promised something and then
stopped it when he got elected, is having a celebration, and they intend to
have the poet's work read by the postman, who has become a bit of a well
known man. Unfortunately, the politicians do not like "anti-government"
activities, and they unleash the police on the crowd and the postman is one
of the victims.
Few films have the beauty, the desire, the care, to create such a strong
story and bring it to the forefront. And the two people that make it work
are Massimo Troisi as the postman, and Philippe Noiret as the poet. Even the
lines are read so beautifully that when we hear at the end of the video tape
an ad for a few actors doing the poetry, only one ( Wesley Snipes ) comes
off as good as the film's rendition of the lines of Neruda's work.
It is a treat to see something like this, and that Massimo Troisi was even
nominated for an Oscar for this role, is an incredible compliment to the
director's vision, and his work with the two lead actors. One wishes that
there were more.... and hopes for more, and the ending just leaves you in
But few films show you what the power and beauty of words can be. It doesn't
matter that anyone can tell you about anything in this film. The true story
is the words, and how they live. The film just floats on the words. It may
be considered a "bit talky" but it is never boring, and never out of
context, or away from the real point it needs to make. But one can easily
see, that this film has nothing to do with communist at all... it's about
poetry, and those who embrace the poetic muse for the love of the words and
This film is second to none in this department. Excellent work all around.
Copyright © 1994 Pedro Sena