26 October 2008

Solamente Amore

While surfing for a movie quote tonight, I stumbled across a reference to Cinema Paradiso, which I've only seen once a couple of years ago now, and moments later, I was viewing a clip on YouTube of the closing scene.

Spoiler Alert: what I describe here is the last scene of the movie, so if you've never seen it, watch it first, and come back and read this. *wink*

I realize there are various themes and interpretations to this closing scene. It may be a simple example of the beautiful escape movies provide people from the harsh realities and mundane details of daily life. It may be, as I've heard it described, a "tribute" to the magic of movies. But I read something else into it.

As the now grown-up main character sits in the theater, viewing the excised clips of amorous affection and giddy playfulness which were once upon a time deemed morally inappropriate for viewing by the villagers in his home town, he is hit with a realization, something that sparks life back into his eyes. His mentor is sending him a message through the collection of clips he left for him to find. It seems, to me at least, that his mentor is reminding him to punctuate and awaken his soul with romance and passion, to not let go of a dream that life (and love) can be every bit as wonderful as you once believed, even if only for moments here and there.

In this scene, he is now a successful and wealthy man with a family, yet he may be questioning what his life has become. He may be questioning whether he traded the wide-eyed optimism and zest for romance and life in general which he felt as a child and young man for a sort of loveless and mechanical life of financial success and social propriety. It seems to me he's realizing he has missed the point of counsel he was given, and though he toyed with the idea of "going back" during a visit to his home town, it became clear that he can't restore what has been lost as a result.

In one moment, as I watch the scene and see in his eyes a broken man to whom these almost euphoric scenes now seem only a distant memory, I dread waking up, one day, to the realization that I have been living a lifeless formula or that, though I may have professional success, social respect, and family at my side, I have given up on passion. It often feels that to have what seems "right", I must forego and turn away from what richly animates every moment. And even though the kind of walking-on-air sensation most often passes or waxes and wanes in long-term relationships, to be able to nostalgically look back on it with a tender smile would be beautifully reassuring.

Still, the next moment, as he seems overtaken with emotion and I see a light restored in his eyes as he is broken and rebuilt, I wonder where he will go from here, and I am motivated to start from this moment to make sure that whatever my course, that I never, never let go of aspiration to passion in life. I hope for passion in a relationship. And I think passion is more than butterflies in the stomach and giddiness, so I hope I'm not naive in my desire for passion. But even if I remain a bachelor my whole life, and though my passions may be for a certain kind of work or study, or a hobby, or (hopefully) for someone, my task now is to figure out how to breathe passion into what is already my life, to direct my course with that fresh wind in my sails. To look back on my past with tender nostalgia is beautiful, and to feel swept away by the fantasy of cinema or stories is briefly soul-lifting, but my life will be what I make it, and my stubbornness has to be worth something, so maybe it will be for refusal to accept a passionless life.

After all, to live a passionless life seems a fruitless sacrifice and one not required by the doctrines I've subscribed to.

So this scene is, to me, both cautionary and hopeful, pathetic and redeeming. It's bittersweet, just the way I like it.

Warning: The following embedded clip includes, among dozens of short clips of old black and white movies, a couple of brief flashes of black and white breastage. Forgive me for presuming most of my readers would not be heavily affected by such glimpses.

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