The Postman (Il Postino)
1994, NR, 113 min. Directed by Michael Radford. Starring Massimo Troisi, Philippe Noiret, Maria Grazia Cucinotta, Linda Moretti, Renato Scarpa, Anna Bonaiuto.
REVIEWED By Alison Macor, Fri., July 7, 1995
This new film by British director Michael Radford (White Mischief, 1984) is an Italian co-production titled The Postman, a film with a production history as tragically romantic as the poetry of one of its main characters, Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. The movie is loosely based on Antonio Skarmeta's Burning Patience, a novel about an incident in Neruda's life when he was befriended by a young postman while living in Italy. Together with Radford, The Postman's lead actor Massimo Troisi had worked diligently since 1990 to bring the story to the screen; both he and Radford share screenwriting credit with three other writers. Sadly, Troisi passed away from a heart condition the day after principal photography was completed on the film. Set in 1952 during the time of Neruda's exile from Chile to a small island off the southern coast of Italy, the film recounts the friendship between the aging Communist poet and the shy, directionless son of a fisherman who knows only that he does not want to follow in his father's footsteps. Troisi plays the uncertain postman Mario with endearing, burning awkwardness. His body language is vaguely reminiscent of Charlie Chaplin's: With soulful gazes and expressive hands he conveys the frustration and desire trapped within his head and heart. Philippe Noiret (best known to American audiences as the projectionist in Cinema Paradiso) plays Neruda with understated generosity and warmth. The friendship between the two men is truly touching, and the end to their story is that much more compelling because of the understanding Mario seems to share with Neruda. Early in their friendship when Mario asks Neruda how to become a poet, we smile at his ingenuousness. Yet that's what this film is about: exploring and expressing the poetry of our lives, be it in the simplicity of the local bar or the complexities of a homeland's government. The Postman also is a love story of the first order, a sweet Cyrano tale in which Mario woos Beatrice (Cucinotta), the niece of the local innkeeper Rosa (Moretti), with a little help from his poet/mentor. With the rapport established between actors Troisi and Noiret, and Radford's gentle prodding of the narrative, The Postman becomes one of the sweetest stories on film this summer. Slow in parts but appealing overall, The Postman suggests how interwoven the bonds of friendship and love can be. It leaves us feeling much like Mario when he reads one of Neruda's poems about the demands of being a man: “That happened to me too but I never knew how to say it.” With lyrical beauty and memorable performances, The Postman articulates many feelings that seem to defy explanation.