In the fall of 1998, I matriculated at Belmont Abbey College. Belmont Abbey College is a small liberal arts college affiliated with the Order St. Benedict. There is a monastery within the campus and it is a quiet campus. My experience there was unique, and I would like talk about it through the prism of two Italian films.
Dr. Tiwari would play foreign films on Fridays in the amphitheater of the science building. I saw two films there when I was a student at Belmont Abbey. They were Il Postino and La vita è bella. I watched both films in Italian with English subtitles. I had watched many foreign films in my thirty something years, but the Italian films started my affair with Italian culture.
Il Postino is the story of Pablo Neruda (a Chilean poet) who was exiled on a small island of Italy. Neruda and his wife had no contact with the rest of the world in 1950. Their only line of communication was with a postman. Their interactions end up influencing the postman and his family. Massimo Troisi played the postman, and Maria Grazia Cucinotta played the postman’s love interest. Il Postino was not an action film, but it was a well written screenplay. Massimo Troisi passed away shortly after the filming of Il Postino. The world lost a great talent. Many years later I found myself in Sicily, and it amazed a few Italians that I had actually watched Il Postino. A year later, I saw La vita è bella. This film is about a young Jewish Italian man prior to World War II. It stars Roberto Benigni and his wife. Roberto Benigni’s character used humor to make it through the German occupation of Italy. The film was a tragedy though. Prior to watching these films, I did not care much about Italian culture. These films changed my view of Italian entertainment industry. I grew up watching the spaghetti western, but Italian movie industry is very diverse.
There is more to Italy than Ferrari and Fiat. I have no plans to live in Italy, but I will always remember the Postman and Life is Beautiful. They show the passion that Italian have about life, that is lacking in today’s society.