1 GIANCALDO. SALVATORE’S MOTHER’S HOUSE. EXT/INT. DAY
The October sun slashes through the gray clouds, cuts across the
shadow towards the sea, along the coast where the new suburbs of the
city of Giancaldo have been built up.
Bright light streams through the windows, glancing off the white
walls in an almost blinding reflection. MARIA, a woman a little over
sixty, is trying to find somebody on the phone.
…Salvatore, that’s right,
Salvatore. Di Vita Salvatore
…But, miss, what do you mean you
don’t know him?!…I…Yes…
(She gives a nervous sigh.
She has dialed her way
through endless numbers
but still hasn’t managed
to speak to Mr. Di
Vita. She finally heaves a
sigh of relief.)
…That’s right, good for you!
Oh!…yes…And I’m his
mother. I’m calling from Sicily. Been
trying all day…Ah, he’s not
there…But would you be so kind as
to give me…?…Yes…
(She nods at another woman
around forty sitting
nearby: it is LIA, her
daughter, who jots down
the numbers her
…Six, five, six, two, two, oh,
six…Thanks ever so
She hangs up, takes the number LIA has jotted down, determined to have still
another try. LIA speaks to her as if she were a baby, to be more convincing.
Look, Ma…It’s useless calling him.
He’ll be terribly busy, God knows
where he is. Besides he might not
even remember. Do as I say, forget
it…He hasn’t been here for thirty
years. You know how he is.
MARIA pauses to think it over. The decision she has to make is important. Then,
He’ll remember! He’ll remember!
(She puts on her glasses
and starts dialing
…I’m positive. I know him better
than you do. If he were to find
out we hadn’t told him, he’d be
angry. I know.
(She takes off her
…Hello? Good morning. Could I
please speak to Mr. Salvatore Di
Vita. I’m his mother…
2 ROME. STREETS. EXT/INT. NIGHT
It’s late, but there is still traffic on the streets heading downtown.
Inside a high-powered car, a man around fifty is driving. It is
SALVATORE Dl VITA. Elegant, just growing gray, a handsome face
creased by deep wrinkles. His weary expression hides the determined,
sell-assured manner of the successful self-made man. He must be a
heavy smoker judging by the way he draws the last puffs on his
He stops at a red light. He stubs out the cigarette and rolls down the
window, as a little Fiat Uno pulls up alongside. A rock tune plays full
blast on the radio. SALVATORE turns instinctively to have a look at the
man at the wheel a BOY with a brush cut standing straight in the latest
fashion. He studies the Boy’s expression with almost exaggerated
attention, but devoid of curiosity, coldly. The GIRL sitting beside him,
lots of curly hair, overripe red lips, returns SALVATORE’5 look,
provocatively. The BOY notices, turns to SALVATORE in a surly voice:
Hey! What the fuck you looking at!?
Green light. The Fiat Uno shoots off, leaving a trail of music in its wake.
3 ROME. SALVATORE S APARTMENT. INT. NIGHT
The apartment is luxurious, tastefully furnished. There is no one waiting for
SALVATORE. Through the picture window on the terrace, the city can be seen
slumbering in the night. SALVATORE gets undressed on his way to the bedroom. He
moves quietly, as if to make no noise. He doesn’t even turn on the light,
finishes getting undressed in the pale blue glow coming from the picture window.
A rustling sound, a movement on the bed, the voice of a woman waking up.
Salvatore…But what time is it?
She turns on the bedside light. It is CLARA, a young woman around thirty.
SALVATORE climbs in beside her under the covers, kisses her sweetly, then in a
It’s late, Clara. Sorry, but I wasn’t
able to let you know I wouldn’t be
(He fondles her, but he is
tired, feels like
Go to sleep now. Sleep.
He turns over on the other side. CLARA shuts her eyes, is about to drop off,
Your mother phoned. She took me for
And what’d you tell her?
I played dumb, so as not to
disappoint her. We had a nice little
talk. She says you never go see her,
and when she wants to see you she has
to come to Rome…Is it true?
SALVATORE doesn’t answer. God only knows how often he’s heard that question
She phoned just to say that?
She reaches out to switch of the light, buries her head into the pillow.
She said a certain Alfredo had died.
And the funeral’s taking place
(A strange look suddenly
comes into SALVATORE’S
eyes. The idea of going to
sleep has clearly left
him. It’s a piece of news
he didn’t expect. That’s
taken him off-guard. CLARA
would like to carry on the
it almost impossible. An
she can manage is one last
question in a faint little
Who is it? A relative of yours?
No. Sleep. Go to sleep.
She falls asleep in the dead silence of the night. SALVATORE is seized by a
sort of chill a deep, troubled feeling. He gazes through the window al the city,
with its shimmering lights still moving in the darkness, suddenly shrouded in a
heavy curtain of rain. But he gazes off, beyond the row of houses, beyond the
dark sky; the shadow of a wind chime plays across his face summoning up endless
memories, drawing forth from the infinite depths of oblivion a past that he
thought had vanished, been wiped out, and instead now re-emerges, comes back to
life, takes on light, superimposing itself on the mellow middle-aged features of
his face, in the shadow of the city shaken by the storm, until another image is
formed, an ancient, remote image…
4 GIANCALDO. CHURCH AND SACRISTY. INT. MORNING
An image from over forty years before. In the baroque church of
Giancaldo. SALVATORE is nine years old. Dressed as an altar boy, he
is kneeling by the altar with a little silver bell in his hands. The
congregation is also kneeling. The PRIEST is consecrating the Host.
Little SALVATORE has just got out of bed, is still half-asleep, yawns
and doesn’t notice that the PRIEST is standing there with the Host in
the air glaring at him, as if trying to tell him something.
SALVATORE finishes yawning and opening his eyes meets the
withering look of the PRIEST. He gets the message at once and
rings the bell. Now the PRIEST can carry on, lifts the chalice and
the bell is heard again.
The service is over. The PRIEST is in the sacristy removing his
vestments. And SALVATORE is also there, removing his altar-boy
But how can I make you understand?
Without the bell I just can’t go on!
Always half asleep, you are! What do
you do at night anyway? Eat instead
Father, at my house we don’t even eat
at noon. That’s why I’m always
sleepy. That’s what the vet says.
The PRIEST has finished disrobing. He takes the bell
SALVATORE was holding during the service and turns to leave.
All right, Toto, get moving, I’ve got
things to do. Say hello to your
And don’t ask if you can come…
Because you can’t!! Shoo, shoo, off
SALVATORE gives a shrug and leaves. The PRIEST goes down a
corridor, opens a door, another corridor, and finally a door
leading to an outside courtyard. He cuts across it and disappears
into another door.
5 CINEMA PARADISO AND PROJECTION BOOTH. INT. MORNING
The PRIEST enters a movie house. Not very big 200 seats on the main
floor and another seventy in the balcony. Along the walls, posters of
films to be shown are stuck up between the light fixtures. In one corner,
a statue of the Virgin Mary with flowers. The CLEANING LADY has
finished work and is leaving. Up in the balcony, over the last row of
seats, are the holes of the projection booth. The middle hole is
camouflaged by the huge head of a roaring lion, all in plaster, and the
lens of the projector can be glimpsed between its sharp teeth.
there are two smaller holes, through which the figure of a man can be
made out, appearing and disappearing…It is ALFREDO, the
projectionist. He is around forty, skinny and bony with a tough
peasant face. He has finished loading the projector and is checking the
carbons in the arc lamp. Then he removes the glass from one of the
holes and looks down into the theatre, at the PRIEST who waves his
OK, Alfredo, you can start!!
He sits down an by himself in the middle of the empty theatre.
Up in the booth, ALFREDO lights the arc lamp and sets the
Down in the theatre, the light goes off and out of the lion’s mouth
streams the glowing ray aimed al the screen. String music, sweet
and ominous, spreads through the theatre. On the screen appear
the credit titles of an American film of the 1940s. The PRIEST
screws up his face and holds the bell in his right hand resting on
the arm of his seat.
At the back of the theatre, behind the last row, a curtain moves,
opens a crack and SALVATORE’S gaunt little face appears. He
has managed to sneak in somehow and stands there without a
word, spellbound, watching the ‘movie’ on the glowing screen.
The credit titles have long come and gone. The story is at a
Up above, in the hole of the booth next to the lion,
ALFREDO watches the film, but his eyes keep looking down at the
PRIEST, who is now drumming the bell with his fingers. On the
screen, the male and female lead, two Hollywood stars, are in
close-up; the dialogue is passionate, romantic. SALVATORE,
carried away by those faces, by the way they talk, by the beauty
of the woman, slowly slips down the length of the curtain until he
is sitting on the floor, his eyes glued to the screen.
The love scene reaches a climax, the music crescendos, and the love-struck
couple finally fall into each other’s arms and kiss. Instinctively, the PRIEST
raises the bell into the air, as in some age-old ceremony, and gives it a loud
Up in the booth ALFREDO hears the bell; it’s the signal he’s been
waiting for. He takes a slip of paper from a pad prepared for that
purpose and sticks it into the loops of the film containing that
specific scene as it winds on to the reel. The projection
…And also the kiss of the two actors. The PRIEST’S nervous look lingers on
those black-and-white lips meeting and now pulling apart for one last
declaration of love before separating. SALVATORE is wide-eyed, he’s probably
never seen a man and woman kiss before, it’s a vision that for him has all the
attraction of forbidden fruit, the horror of sin. The screen is now filled with
the figure of a woman getting undressed, showing for one instant the white,
voluptuous flesh of her broad, naked shoulders. SALVATORE stares in open-mouthed
wonder. The PRIEST, in a fury, grabs the bell and shakes it for all he is worth.
From the sound of the bell to another sound…
6 GIANCALDO. MAIN SQUARE. EXT. DAY
The tolling of the bell-tower rings out over the
square. It is noon. The vast square, pale and dusty, is alive with people. A
noisy line of men, women and cows waits in front of the fountain to get water.
Peddlers hawk their wares in mournful cries. People come and go in front of the
town hall. The working men’s club is deserted. The entrance of the Cinema
Paradiso is shut. Hanging outside is the poster of the film that has just been
seen on screen. Up above, the windows of the projection booth are open. The hum
of the projector can be heard and the loud, lofty music typical of ‘THE END’.
Then dead silence. The showing is over.
7. CINEMA PARADISO. PROJECTION BOOTH. INT. DAY
Despite the speed, numerous white streaks spin around on the reel,
created by the slips of paper ALFREDO has inserted into the loops. He
is rewinding the film by hand on the film-winder. When he’s not
talking, ALFREDO usually sings to himself. SALVATORE stands beside
him, taking in everything he does with those quick, thieving eyes of his
You must not come here! How many
times do I have to tell you?
(And he slows down the
reels with his hand. The
slips of paper
are about to arrive.
Here’s the first.)
If the film catches fire, runt that
you are, you’d go up in a
burst of flame…whoosh! And turn
into a piece of…
…and turn into a piece of
He’s used to his terrorisms, pays no more attention. Not even his
grim look scares him. Anyway, ALFREDO catches the joke, starts to give him a
slap, but instead reaches over and picks up a pair of scissors.
Christ, that’s a sassy little tongue
you’ve got! Watch out, or someday
I’ll snip it off.
And he snips a piece of film, pastes the ends together and goes on turning the
handle. SALVATORE picks up the strip of film and gives it a closer look. He sees
a series of frames all alike with a man kissing a woman.
Can I have it?
ALFREDO snatches it out of his hand, furiously, at the end of his string. He
No!!! Are you deaf or something? I’ve
got to put this back in when we wind
up the film again! You’re a real pain
in the neck!
SALVATORE reaches into a basket full of strips of film. He takes out a handful:
all kisses that have been cut.
Then why didn’t you put these back
when you wound up the films again?
ALFREDO is caught out. He stops the film where another slip of paper is stuck
in and cuts the scene:
‘Cause sometimes you can’t find the
right place any more and so…well,
actually…they stay here.
(Finding an excuse)
Besides, there are more kisses than
you can count.
So I can have these?
(ALFREDO explodes, flies
off the handle. He grabs
SALVATORE by the shoulders
and shakes him.)
Look, Toto! Before I kick your ass
all the way to China and back, let’s
make a deal. These strips here are
yours, I give them to you. However!
One you’re not to stick your nose in
here any more. Two I’ll keep them
for you, because you can’t take them
home for God forbid and save our
souls, if they catch fire, all hell
will break loose! OK? Oh!!! And now
He takes him and turns him towards the stairs. For him the matter is closed. He
returns to the film-winder. SALVATORE sneaks back and while ALFREDO’s attention
is elsewhere, snatches up a handful of movie frames scattered on the counter,
stuffs them into his pocket and…
What sort of deal is this? The strips
are mine! So why can’t I come see
And he stares at ALFREDO with a sly, saucy look. ALFREDO clutches his hand,
darts forth like an arrow and is about to give him a kick in the ass. He
Get out!! And don’t show your face
And before the kick reaches its destination, SALVATORE has already dashed off
down the spiral staircase.
8 GIANCALDO. SALVATORE’S HOUSE. INT. EVENING
That was not the first theft of film strips. SALVATORE’s hand reaches
into a flowery metal box jammed full of pieces of film. He takes out a
few frames and holds them up against the kerosene lamp. Gazes at the
figures that remind him of the films seen at Cinema Paradiso, and in a
whisper mangles fragments of dialogue, the shooting of guns, the
Bang! Bang! Bang! Shoot first, think
later! This is no job for weaklings!
The house has no lights, is gloomy and cold. SALVATORE’s
mother, MARIA, is leaning on the table in front of him. She is
young, around thirty, and her pretty face is haggard, marred by
all the sacrifices. She is sewing some clothes, is a seamstress. LIA,
his four-year-old sister, is sleeping on a cot in one corner. The
kerosene lamp projects the trembling shadow of the film strips on
the wall, figures of prairies, gunslingers, thugs. SALVATORE’s
voice changes, turns even tougher.
Hey there, you lousy bastard, take
your hands off that gold, You black-
hearted pig, stay away from me, or
I’ll smash your face in!
(In the heap of movie
frames there are also
SALVATORE picks them up.
Family keepsakes. A man in
an army uniform. Then the
same man with a girl
beside him whose smiling
face can be recognized as
MARIA. SALVATORE takes a
closer look at the man’s
face, then whispers to his
Ma, if the war’s over, how come
Daddy’s never come back?
MARIA looks up at him with a sweet smile.
He’ll be back, he’ll be back…
You’ll see. One of these
But there is not much conviction written on her face. She looks
back down at her sewing. SALVATORE goes on looking at the
I don’t remember him any more—Ma,
It takes years to get there. And
years to come back…Now go to bed,
Toto, it’s late.
SALVATORE puts the photos back into the box and tucks the box
under LIA’s cot near the charcoal burner.
9 GRADE SCHOOL. COURTYARD. EXT. DAY
A noisy crowd of little children in black smocks, white collars and blue
bows moves about the large courtyard where there are two tall palm
trees. The boys head for one door, the girls towards the opposite one.
The Janitors line them up two by two, ready to enter. Here and there,
parents and relatives accompany the younger ones. Beneath one of the
palms, SALVATORE pulls off the altar-boy tunic, stuffs it into the
khaki-colored cardboard schoolbag, takes out the smock and puts it
on, as one of his schoolmates passes by. It is MASINO, and he’s crying
desperately because he doesn’t want to go to school. His FATHER drags
him along, yelling:
You can fool your mother but not me!
Get yourself a damn diploma and
become a policeman. You good-for-
I don’t want to go to school’
(The sound of the bell.
The black lines move up
the steps towards the
1O FOURTH GRADE. INT. DAY
SALVATORE is sitting at the front-row desk next to PEPPINO,
a little freckle-faced boy. His attention, like that of the whole class, is
concentrated on what is taking place at the blackboard. The TEACHER is standing
there, watching a plump little boy, shy and not quite all there, do a two-figure
multiplication it is NICOLA SCORSONE, known as ‘COLA’. He is red in the face,
has one purple ear and one white one. He stares in terror at that ‘255 x 15’
written on the blackboard. The TEACHER yells, waving a birch rod in her hand.
Well then?! Five times five
COLA stops to think a moment, then…
The TEACHER grabs him by the purple ear and bashes his head against the numbers
on the blackboard. A large thud echoes through the room, followed by a roar of
laughter. The TEACHER slams her rod on the desk.
(Then to COLA)
The five times table. Dunce! One
times five, five!!
(The class repeats with
the TEACHER, in a sing-
TEACHER and CLASS
Two times five, ten! Three times
five, fifteen! Four times five,
(With a wave of the rod,
the TEACHER silences the
class, and finishes the
sing-song with the fateful
Five times five?
Another blow of the head on the blackboard. Hubbub.
Slapping of the rod on the desk. SALVATORE secretly shows
COLA the picture of a Christmas tree on one page of the book,
and mouths the word ‘twenty-five’. COLA smiles, he has finally
I’m asking you for the last time,
blockhead! Five times five equals…?
(COLA turns to her with
smiling eyes and answers
SALVATORE clutches his head in anger, watches the TEACHER
flogging COLA on the back with the rod. COLA screams at every
blow, and at every blow the laughter in the class grows louder.
SALVATORE stares at the rod moving up and down rhythmically. But he is not
thinking of the pain his schoolmate is feeling, but is drawn, rather, by that
strange regular beat, finds it similar to another regular beat, that of…
11 CINEMA PARADISO. BALCONY AND MAIN FLOOR. INT. DAY
…the rolling pin ALFREDO uses to flatten out a reel of film that has just
been unloaded. SALVATORE carefully watches ALFREDO 5 every move. He is not in
the projection booth, but up in the balcony, standing on top of the last row of
seats. He peers through the hole next to the lion’s head. His bright little eyes
fix in his mind the things ALFREDO does, as he loads the film into the
projector, shuts the fireproof housings, turns on the amplifier, checks the
carbons in the arc lamp, then lowers his head to have a look into the theatre
and finds himself face to face with SALVATORE.
What are you doing here?
I bought a ticket. I’ve come to see
(Meanwhile the USHER comes
up behind him and grabs
him by the collar, and he
almost jumps out of his
skin. ALFREDO laughs.)
Go sit downstairs! You good-for-
nothing sponger! !
(To the audience)
Worse than rabbits they are!
SALVATORE has run downstairs. The main floor is more
crowded than the balcony, like every Sunday, and there is a greatdin. The BOY
selling ice-cream, soda pop and candy shouts and
runs around like a chicken with its head off. Now the lights dim,
the hubbub dies down and the performance starts. Before the film
there is a preview for Stagecoach. The screen fills with images ofJohn Wayne,
the pursuit of the stagecoach by hostile Indians
SALVATORE is sitting in the front rows, right under the screen,
next to BOCCIA, COLA, MASINO, PEPPINO and OTHER KIDS, all with their noses in
the air. BOCCIA, the biggest show off of the group, is smoking a cigarette. An
OLD MAN appears through the entrance curtain, takes a couple of steps and
FIRST OLD MAN
Ssssssh!!! Ssssssh! Silence!
FIRST OLD MAN
Can’t I say hello?
It’s a double-feature today.
FIRST OLD MAN
I couldn’t care less. I come here to
All at once, a chorus of shouts and whistles fills the theatre. Up
on the screen, a globe of the world appears, spinning among the
stars, the logo announcing the newsreel.
(Hooting and whistling)
For Christ’s sake! Cut it,
The CHILDREN in the front rows also yell, but SALVATORE goes
on being alert. He turns and looks up at the holes of the projection
booth, as if it were an impregnable fortress. He watches the crazy
dancing of light in the glowing stream that opens towards him in a
cone. And besides, that lion’s head, mysterious, almost gruesome,
emphasizes the enigmatic secret of the movies. In his dreamy eyes,
that lifeless lion seems to wake up with a ferocious roar.
SALVATORE has a frightened look…Another lion roaring. But up on the screen.
The MGM lion. The throng of children imitate the famous growl all together,
shaking their heads in unison.
The film starts: it is Visconti’s La terra trema. SALVATORE is in bliss. His
wide eyes looking up at the magic square of light. The title music. Another OLD
MAN enters at the back of the theatre, but before sitting down, says hello in a
SECOND OLD MAN
Greetings to one and all!
SSSSSH’ Drop dead! Silence! Hey,
kids, we’re here to see the film!
Now there is an important sequence. The audience is silent. Concentrated on the
screen. BOCCIA passes the lighted cigarette to SALVATORE. He takes a puff and
hands it on to the others without ever taking his eyes off the screen. The
beautiful star of the film appears on screen. A different kind of attention
takes hold of the excited audience. SALVATORE and the others stare at her with
open mouths…She leans towards the leading man, a languid expression, their
profiles touch. But all at once, just at the best part, there is a sudden jolt.
The kiss isn’t seen.
Ahhh! What a shame! I’ve been going
to the movies for twenty years and I
never saw a kiss!
SALVATORE is the only one to laugh to himself. He knows what has happened.
And when will we see one?
Up in the balcony, the audience is more sedate. The tickets cost more and the
people are richer, more refined. Among them, a MAN with a moustache, the look of
a public notary, is sitting right in front of the railing. Seriously, without
batting an eye, he spits down below with contempt. Right on the dot, a voice is
heard, followed by a chorus of protests.
VOICE and AUDIENCE
Bugger!!! Ssssh!!! Silence!!
12 SQUARE AND ENTRANCE OF CINEMA PARADISO. EXT. NIGHT
The bell-tower rings midnight. The square is nearly deserted. Except
for a landowner near the refreshment stand, with a moustache and a
hat, DON VINCENZO by name, who is picking out from a group of
labourers the men he’ll be needing in the country at dawn. He chooses,
points his finger, calls…
People come out of the movie house after the last showing.
The USHER locks the front door as ALFREDO climbs down from the
projection booth. Among the crowd there is only one kid, SALVATORE.
Tired, half-asleep. He’s seen all the showings. He starts to walk away
when he catches sight of his mother standing on the opposite corner,
wrapped in an old coat. She’s waiting for him, in a temper.
SALVATORE drops his eyes to the ground, mortified. He knows what’s
coming. He goes over to her timidly, uncertain, gives her a questioning
I’ve been looking for you all day.
Did you buy the milk?
Then where’s the money?
Somebody stole it.
MARIA gives him a slap. SALVATORE holds back the sobs, but
his eyes brim with tears. ALFREDO and the USHER are nearby,
have heard everything.
What’d you do with the money? Go to
SALVATORE nods his head and the sobs increase. MARIA, in
despair, flies off the handle, slaps him again, but looks as if she
doesn’t really want to, as if deep down she forgives her son’s
escapade. ALFREDO catches on, speaks up on behalf of
Signora Maria, don’t do that. He’s
just a kid.
And why are you telling fibs?
We let him in free. He must have lost
the money inside the movie
(SALVATORE stares at him
in amazement, goes on
listening to him.)
How much did you have?
(MARIA wipes away his tears.)
(To the USHER)
What you find tonight on the floor
between the seats?
(The USHER reaches into-
his pockets, pulls out
some odds and ends.)
A comb, two heel-savers, a box of
(ALFREDO very skillfully
reaches out with fifty
lire he has taken
from his pocket. And like
a magician he draws the
money out of
the USHER’S hand.)
…and fifty lire!
(He hands over the money
under the USHER’S
Thanks, Uncle Alfredo. Thanks. Good-
She walks away, dragging SALVATORE by the hand. ALFREDO
gives him a wink. SALVATORE smiles and winks back, but he’s
not very good at it; he can’t manage to shut only one eye.
Everybody leaves and the square empties, as the VILLAGE IDIOT
comes up to the group of labourers, beside DON VINCENZO,
motioning them all to get moving.
It’s midnight. I’ve got to shut down
the square! Go away.
The square’s mine! The square’s
13 CEMETERY ROAD AND VILLAGE ROAD. EXT. DAY
SALVATORE, dressed as an altar boy, walks alongside the PRIEST
who is wearing the ceremonial vestments. They are tired, have walked
a long way. Behind them a donkey pulls a wagon containing a little
white coffin and a bunch of flowers. Behind that a little procession the
parents and relatives of the dead child. The road is very wide, covered
with white earth. The spring sun is dazzling. The funeral procession
kicks up a cloud of dust that makes everything blurred and hazy, like a
dream, rimmed around the horizon by the blue line of the sea. The
procession now turns into the large gate of the cemetery. ALFREDO,
working in the fields, takes his hat off and watches the coffin as it passes by.
The funeral is over. The PRIEST and SALVATORE are walking back
to the village. ALFREDO appears out of the countryside on e bicycle
with a hoe and other farm tools in the basket. He comes pedaling up
Good morning, father. It’s hard on
the feet, huh?
Yeah!…Getting there’s downhill and
all the saints help you. But coming
back! The saints stand there watching
you, that’s all! God’s will be done.
SALVATORE is about to open his mouth, wants to say something
to ALFREDO, but he doesn’t have time. ALFREDO pedals harder
and rides off.
SALVATORE is crestfallen. He looks et the PRIEST, then at the bicycle riding
away. His eyes light up an idea! He suddenly yells:
Ouch! Ouch! My foot! I can’t walk!
He limps. Throws himself to the ground as if a snake had bitten him. The PRIEST
leans over in alarm. Up ahead in the distance, ALFREDO turns around to look.
There is a smile on SALVATORE’S face. He is riding on the crossbar of ALFREDO’s
bicycle. On their way back lo the village.
Alfredo, did you know my father?
Of course I knew your father. He was
tall, thin, pleasant, and had a
moustache like mine. Always smiling.
He looked like Clark Gable.
There’s something SALVATORE wants to talk about, but he doesn’t know how to
start. He has a try with an innocent stratagem.
Alfredo, now that I’m older, I’m not
saying I can start coming to the
projection booth, to the movie
house…But…maybe, why don’t we
ALFREDO knows exactly what the little rascal is up to, and answers in a
strange, theatrical tone, as if he were repeating something he knows by heart, a
remark taken from some old film.
‘I choose my friends for their
looks, and my enemies for their
You’re too smart to be my friend.
Besides, as I always tell my kids, be
careful to pick the right friends!
But you don’t have any kids!!!
All right, all right! When I’ve got
kids that’s what I’m telling them!
(The outlying houses of
Giancaldo finally heave
14 SALVATORE S HOUSE. EXT. DAY
LIA, SALVATORE’S kid sister, is crying outside the front door, terror
stricken. Her face is smeared with smoke and her little dress half
scorched and soaking wet. MARIA is distraught, damp with sweat, and
tries to console her, hugging her in her arms.
Stop crying…The fire is out…I’m
here…That’ll do, that’ll do…
(ALFREDO and SALVATORE
come up behind them.
SALVATORE has barely leapt
off the bicycle when his
mother sails into him like
a fury, shrieking:)
Miserable boy! You’re the ruin of me!
Your sister would have been burnt
alive if I hadn’t been there! And all
SALVATORE darts off, chased by his mother, swift as a deer.
ALFREDO doesn’t understand what has happened, leans over
LIA, who goes on bawling her eyes out, and sees on the ground, in
the middle of the water, a flowery box all charred and still
smoking, and all around scraps of film reduced to ashes and
several singed photographs, the photos of SALVATORE s father.
ALFREDO gets the message now, looks up at MARIA, who has
caught SALVATORE and is dragging him home, hitting and
slapping him all the way. SALVATORE covers his head with his
hands to stave off the blows. MARIA turns to ALFREDO, in a
stern, indignant voice.
But aren’t you ashamed of yourself,
Uncle Alfredo, playing with a little
boy at your age?!
But…what’s it got to do with
And who gave him all those films?
Promise you won’t give him any more
of this trash! Don’t let him set foot
any more in the movie house. The
boy’s crazy! Crazy! All he talks
about is movies and Alfredo’ Alfredo
ALFREDO is crestfallen, didn’t think that SALVATORE’S craziness, his morbid
passion for movies, could go this far.
I give you my word, Donna Maria.
(MARIA now turns one last
time to her son.)
God’s got to grant me one wish! Send
your father back home! And he’ll see
you get what’s coming to you!
(SALVATORE lowers his
hands, looks at her and
with the dreadful
sincerity of children:)
Daddy’s not coming back…He’s dead.
(An icy flash runs through
It’s not true! No! It’s not true!!!
I’ll show you he’s coming back!
And she beats him desperately, as if to enforce her stubborn hope, slap after
slap. This time ALFREDO doesn’t step in, lets MARIA give vent
to her rage and fury, but SALVATORE’S cries make him feel guilty.
15:SQUARE AND PROJECTION BOOTH. EXT/INT. DAY
Another Sunday. A crowd of men has gathered in the square around the café where
there is a loudspeaker. They are listening to the running commentary of the
soccer games. They check their Sisal pools coupons. NICOLO CAROSIO’S VOICE
…We’re at the seventh minute of the second half. Turin is leading one to
zero. The goal was scored by…(The scene is seen from above, by ALFREDO who
peers out of the window of the projection booth. CAROSIO’S voice drowns out the
soundtrack of the film being shown. ALFREDO is bored. He goes over to the
projector, looks through the hole…It’s the last sequence of the film. The
music swells to a climax as ‘THE END’ appears on the screen. Swift as ever,
ALFREDO turns on the lights in the theatre’ stops the projector. Looks back
through the hole, to see…)
16:CINEMA PARADISO. INT/EXT. DAY
…the house packed to the rafters. Voices and laughter of the children. Smoke,
ice-cream, soft drinks. The USHER has opened the emergency exits to let in air.
He fights off the gate-crashers who are trying to get in free. The sound of the
sports commentary fills the theatre. The village BLACKSMITH is sleeping in his
seat, his head thrown back and his mouth wide open. The KIDS blow up the empty
ice-cream sacks and pop them next to his ears. Bang! The BLACKSMITH wakes up
with a start, in a sea of laughter. He yells:
Ah! I’ll wring all your necks!! Or my
good name means nothing! !! Lousy
SALVATORE doesn’t laugh. He is sad. He turns and looks up at the projection
booth. He sees ALFREDO through the lion’s mouth. ALFREDO also catches sight of
him. SALVATORE gives him a timid wave of the hand, as if asking if he can come
up a moment. The look on ALFREDO’S face is unmistakable, irrevocable: N0!
SALVATORE’S not surprised; after what happened it won’t be easy to win him over.
Yet there must be some way. But what is it? As usual, SALVATORE is smart as the
devil when he’s out to get something. Through the emergency exit he sees a woman
pass by with a packet in her hand. It is ALFREDO’s WIFE, and the packet is his
supper. SALVATORE leaps to his feet and runs out to her.
17 CINEMA PARADISO. PROJECTION ROOM AND SQUARE. INT/EXT. DAY
ALFREDO starts up the projector. It’s time for the documentaries and
cartoons. SALVATORE peers in from the top of the stairs. He’s scared of
ALFREDO’S reaction, but pricks up his courage and shows him the
packet. ALFREDO sees him, is about to pounce on him…
(On the defensive)
Your wife told me to bring you this.
His expression betrays the ‘put on’. ALFREDO sighs, realizes it’s another one of
his little games.
Give it to me!…
He takes the packet, unwraps it and lifts the lid, shuts it again and puts the
container inside the lamp of the projector to keep it warm. SALVATORE hasn’t
missed a single gesture, but speaks with his eyes
to the poor.
I told my mother you weren’t the one
who gave me the films. That it
wasn’t your fault. But I thought you
said the film could catch fire just
to scare me. Now that I know, I won’t
steal any more from you. That’s all I
wanted to say. I’m going.
(He turns to leave but
ALFREDO takes him by the
shoulder and stops
Toto, come here.
All things considered, there is something in that little boy, maybe his
feverish passion, that strikes him. He’ll talk to him seriously, without
resorting to terrorism, try to convince him. He lowers the volume of the
monitor, sits down on the stool. SALVATORE raises his eyes from the floor and
looks at him at last…
Now listen to what I’ve got to say. I
took up this profession when I
was ten years old. In those days
there weren’t these modern machines.
The films were silent. The projectors
were run by hand, like this, with a
crank. And you wound the crank all
day long. It was really rough going!
If you got tired and slowed down’
boom! Everything would go up in
Then why don’t you want to teach it
to me too? Now that there’s no more
cranking, and it’s easier?
Because I don’t want to, Toto! This
is not a job for you. It’s like being
a slave. You’re always alone. You see
the same film over and over again,
because you have nothing else to do.
And you start talking to Greta Garbo
and Tyrone Power like a nut! You work
on holidays, on Christmas, on Easter.
Only on Good Friday are you free. But
if they hadn’t put Jesus Christ on a
cross…You’d work Good Fridays too!
Then why don’t you change jobs?
(ALFREDO sighs, irritated.
He reaches out to turn the
knob of the carbon rods.
He gazes at SALVATORE as
if he were a grown-up,
somebody who’s making
things hard for him.)
Because I’m an idiot. How many other
guys in town know how to be a
projectionist? None! Only a jerk like
me could do it. Besides I wasn’t
lucky. When I was a kid there was the
war! When I grew up, another war! Now
it’s all different. Times have
changed. And you want to be a dope
like me? Huh? Answer me!
Good for you, Toto. Good for you…
I’m only saying this for your own
(He gets up and, speaking
all the while, goes into a
closet with a bucket
in it, the toilet of the
booth. He turns his back
and pees. )
Cooped up in here you die of heat in
the summer and of cold in the winter.
You breathe in smoke, gas fumes, and
earn practically nothing.
(SALVATORE listens to
him, but taking advantage
of the fact he can’t be
seen, he turns the knob of
the carbon rods, just as
he had seen done a moment
(In a loud voice)
But don’t you like anything about
what you do?
(SALVATORE gazes at the
photos on the wall:
Keaton, Garbo, Snow
smiles to himself. Sure,
there’s something about
that damn job he likes:)
With time…you get used to it.
Besides, when you hear from up here
that there’s a full house and that
people are laughing, having fun…
Then you’re happy too.
(ALFREDO is lost in
thought, doesn’t notice
that the documentaries
and cartoons have
finished. The screen is
blank. And down in the
theatre laughter is not
heard but an uproar of
swearing. SALVATORE’S eyes
sparkle, he seizes the
He turns on the lights and
stops the projector, just
would have done. At which
ALFREDO buttons up his
pants in a
hurry and rushes over
alarmed, but sees that
everything is in order.
SALVATORE looks at him all
smiles, as if he expected
a medal for
civil bravery. Instead,
ALFREDO reacts like a wild
So I’ve been wasting my breath? You
pretend to agree with
me, but as soon as my back is turned,
you do what you want!
(He gives SALVATORE a kick
in the ass, shrieking:)
Get out of here! I don’t want to lay
eyes on you again! This is
the last straw! Your mother’s right,
(He pushes him towards the
stairs. SALVATORE suddenly
vanishes, scared out of
his wits. ALFREDO talks to
himself, in a
But how’d he do it? The little
bastard! By watching, he’s
learned! It’s incredible!
(He peers out of the
window, yelling, as he
running through the
I’m letting the box office know
you’re not to set foot even into
the theatre! There are no more
tickets for you! And I’m also
talking to Father Adelfio! You won’t
be an altar boy any more
either!!! You little runt!
(SALVATORE looks at him.
Hates him. Yells something
Alfredo, go fuck yourself!!!
(But his words are drowned
out by the sudden shouting
of the people outside the
Goal!! Holy Mother of God!!!
(A MAN in the crowd
crumples to the ground.
The others swarm around
him, alarmed. They hold up
his head. His face is
pale. They check the
coupon he is clutching in
his hand. A voice rises
like a siren from the
Ciccio Spaccafico’s won the
(The yell can be heard…)
I8 CINEMA PARADISO. INT. DAY
…inside the movie house. The audience murmurs. Somebody opens
an emergency exit…
The Neapolitan’s won the lottery!!!
Let’s go see, kids!!! Northerners are
(The whole audience leaps
up and heads for the exit.
Laughing and Joking. )
19 SQUARE AND VILLAGE. EXT. MORNING
Summer has come. The village has a different look. The peddlers sing their
monotonous refrains in the village streets. In one street, women are busy
canning tomatoes. In one corner of the square, the SHEARER has finished clipping
the donkey and is now shaving the hair of a row of bare-chested URCHINS with
nothing on but their underwear. Then another MAN disinfects them by spraying
them with the hand pumps used to spray trees in the country. The URCHINS
laugh. The BILL-POSTER is hanging up the posters of a new film, ‘TODAY AT CINEMA
20 GRADE SCHOOL DINING HALL. INT. MORNING
The fifth-grade exams. In the vast dining hall all the children are seated, one
for each desk, under the watchful eyes of the teachers. SALVATORE, BOCCIA,
PEPPINO, MASINO and COLA have taken places here and there, as nervous as
everybody else. The EXAMINING BOARD MEMBER is dictating the text of the
EXAMINING BOARD MEMBER
A merchant owns two stores. In the
first he sells fruit and vegetables.
In the second he sells nails and
(The PRINCIPAL comes in,
interrupts the dictation.)
Excuse me, professor. Here are the
men taking the exam for the
elementary school certificate.
(Turning to the door)
Come in, please…
(All the children turn to
look. A MAN around thirty
enters, ill at ease. The
children recognize him and
laugh mischievously. The
second is the BLACKSMITH,
the one who falls asleep
at the movies. The third
is a twenty-year-old-boy,
ANGELO. The fourth is
ALFREDO, embarrassed and
red in the face. SALVATORE
is speechless. Gives a
slightly ironic laugh.
There is a look of revenge
in his shrewd little
The assignment is now being carried out. There is dead silence in the
TEACHERS and the PRINCIPAL moue about, checking to be sure there are no notes
being handed around or other forms of ‘collaboration’. The four outsiders are
having a hard time. It can be seen on their faces. ALFREDO is also in trouble,
doesn’t know how to solve the problem, the calculations are too diff cult. He
looks at the desk next to him, where SALVATORE is sitting. SALVATORE is about to
look up at him, but ALFREDO immediately looks away, too proud to let himself be
The exchange of glances continues, grotesque, almost comical. SALVATORE
meanwhile writes down numbers and operations quite quickly. ALFREDO can’t stand
it any longer, is nervous, beaded with sweat. He’s sorry he ever showed up.
SALVATORE laughs up his sleeve, now he has the upper hand. ALFREDO tries
sneaking a look at his exercise book in order to copy something. But SALVATORE
turns his back, hiding it from sight. ALFREDO tries sneaking a look at somebody
else’s exercise book, but the damn kid also covers it. It looks like a
conspiracy against him. ALFREDO has no way out. He has to accept the idea of
eating humble pie. He looks at SALVATORE, motions him with his eyes in a
conversation of glances. He asks for help, but SALVATORE stands firm,
ALFREDO tries to put it into words in a low voice.
YOU jerk. Tell me how to solve this
Ssssh! Silence back there!!
ALFREDO insists with his eyes. SALVATORE makes him understand with gestures
that he could help him maybe, but…on one condition. He imitates the gesture
of winding the crank of the projector. ALFREDO gets the message. It’s pure
blackmail. He rubs his hand over his sweating face, raises his eyes to the
ceiling as if he were swearing. Then he surrenders, accepts the condition.
SALVATORE is serious, does not flaunt his victory, but you can tell he is happy.
He takes out a sheet of paper he had already prepared, with the solution to the
problem, rolls it up into a tiny ball and as soon as the TEACHER passes by,
takes aim and flicks it to him. ALFREDO’S hand catches the precious and dearly
bought message in mid-air. Their quarrel is over.
2I VARIOUS SETTINGS. INT. DAY/EVENING
A bright, lilting tune marks the rhythm of the quick, blurred images, as
in a dance, the images of ALFREDO teaching SALVATORE all the
secrets of the projectionist trade.
ALFREDO slips the reel on to the projector, unrolls the trailer and hands
it to SALVATORE. SALVATORE mounts the film on the sprockets.
Now SALVATORE sets the projector into motion, opens the shutter and
stands on tip-toe to see the screen from the hole…
A shot from In nome della legge. The main-floor audience applauds a
line spoken by Massimo Gironi. And from the balcony, the same little
MAN with the face of a public notary spits below.
MAIN FLOOR VOICE
ALFREDO shows SALVATORE the running of the film. He points
to a place on the projector.
Pay attention. This is where it can
easily catch fire. If it
happens, the first thing you’ve got
to do is break it off, here
and here, so the whole reel doesn’t
go up in fames.
On the screen, a shot from Riso amaro. A kiss. Unrelenting, the PRIEST rings his
bell. SALVATORE licks the film on one side, then on the other. He laughs.
You understand which side the
It tastes wonderful!
A shot of Amedeo Nazzari in La figlia del capitano. A jump,
an out-of-rack frame. The audience whistles.
Fraaaame!! Wake up, Alfredo!
(SALVATORE tries to do a
winds the film, hangs a
slip on a nail in the
These are the shipping invoices for
the film. They are always to be kept.
Down on the main floor, a scene from Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
Everyone screams and hides their faces when Hyde looks at the
Holy Mother! What a face! So ugly!
One young man, ANGELO, doesn’t hide his face. He looks up at
a young woman, ROSA, in the balcony, who turns and smiles at
ALFREDO gives SALVATORE a wooden stool. He’s had it made especially for him, so
he can be high enough to reach the reels of the projector and the arc lamp.
SALVATORE climbs up on it. He laughs, all excited.
Now you can run it by yourself.
SALVATORE gives another smile. He is posing in a photographer’s studio . He is
all dressed up for first communion, holding a white lily. The flash goes off
like lightning during a storm. Now SALVATORE is posing next to his mother and
little sister. They smile without hugging. Another flash of light. Click!
22 FIFTH GRADE. INT. DAY
Another click. The transparency of Rita Hayworth in her black gown
from Gilda. MASINO is pasting it inside a minute pair of plastic field
glasses. Other pupils crowd around him in excitement.
(In a whisper)
Christ, what a piece of ass!!!
But there is not a cheerful atmosphere in the class – on the
contrary, a strange silence. The pupils are all standing around the
teacher’s desk, having received their end-of-the-year report cards.
PEPPINO, who shared SALVATORE s desk, is saying goodbye to
his schoolmates. BOCCIA, COLA, the others. They have serious,
sad expressions. He and SALVATORE kiss like grown-ups. The
TEACHER is standing among them. One of the schoolmates does
not respond lo PEPPINO’s goodbye gesture. He takes a few steps
back, serious, scared, his eyes lowered.
Di Francesco, aren’t you saying
goodbye to your schoolmate?
(DI FRANCESCO gives his
head a little shake. The
TEACHER leans over to
(DI FRANCESCO whispers,
almost into her ear.)
My father says he’s a Communist…
23 SQUARE AND PROJECTION BOOTH, CINEMA PARADISO. EXT/INT. DAY
Another farewell scene in the square. PEPPINO to his grandparents. His father
and mother are also there, saying goodbye to the old folks. There are tears. The
cardboard suitcases tied with string are loaded on to the luggage rack of the
black car. The scene is watched by SALVATORE and ALFREDO, up in the window of
the projection booth. They look like old friends. On the sound monitor, the
strains of some American musical comedy tune.
Will they really find work in
Who knows?…It’s like an adventure.
(In a theatrical voice)
Hope springs eternal…
(PEPPINO from the distance
gives one last wave at the
window of the
SALVATORE waves back.)
Peppinoooo! Come back sooon!!
(The black car drives off,
leaving a cloud of dust
that envelops the
suppressed sobs of the
watches the car drive off.
Good thing Germany’s closer than
ALFREDO rubs his hand through his hair.
24 CINEMA PARADISO. BALCONY AND BOOTH. INT. EVENING
The lion’s head with the beam of light, seen from the balcony.
SALVATORE’S face appears in the hole beside it, as he peers down at the
images of the Settimana Incom newsreel.
The audience is distracted. The snoring of a man sleeping can be heard.
A pair of urchins pick up a cockroach with their hands, tip-toe down the
aisle. The sleeping man is the same old BLACKSMITH, with his head
thrown back. A little hand drops the cockroach into the gaping mouth.
The URCHINS take to their heels. The BLACKSMITH squirms, wake up
with a start. Spits, while everybody laughs. The newsreel is now about
missing soldiers in Russia.
The Defense Minister has announced a
new listof names of Italian soldiers,
so far considered missing and now
confirmed as dead. Families concerned
will be notified directly by military
SALVATORE pays careful attention, sees the black-and-white
shots of the last war. The Russian campaign. The troops in the
snow. Now in detail a heap of personal objects found on the
corpses. Documents, clothing, glasses, photographs. One quick
detail catches SALVATORE’s eye among those photographs, for one
instant he sees one he thinks he recognizes. He quickly sticks a slip of paper
into the take-up reel, as when marking the kisses to be cut.
25 PREFECTURE. CITY. INT. DAY
The hands of an OFFICIAL tear off several forms and give them to
MARIA who is sitting in front of the desk. She is dressed in black.
SALVATORE stands beside her, holding her hand. They have black
bands on their arms. An empty stare in their eyes.
MARIA is pale, a cold look in her sunken eyes. Her heart is bursting in
her breast. And a lump in her throat prevents her from speaking. She
looks at her husband’s belongings, identifies them a gold chain, an ID
card and the photograph, the one SALVATORE saw in the newsreel.
MARIA strokes it with her fingers. SALVATORE comes up and looks, as
the OFFICIAL concludes:
…Unfortunately we don’t know what
war cemetery he’s buried in…This
is the form for the pension. If you’d
like to sign it…
26 PREFECTURE AND CITY STREET. EXT. DAY
MARIA walks through the city. She holds SALVATORE by the hand. SALVATORE looks
up, trying to catch her eye. He sees her crying, in silence. The heartbroken
tears of someone who has lost the one last hope, but held back, so as not to be
seen by the child. SALVATORE presses close and puts his arm around her waist.
They turn the corner, and walk off in the noisy city, disfigured by the ruins of
war. A poster for Gone with the Wind catches SALVATORE’s eye. He smiles.
27 CINEMA PARADISO. BOX OFFICE. PROJECTION BOOTH. SQUARE. INT/EXT. EVENING
Winter has returned. On the screen, a sequence from I pompieri di Viggiu. The
theatre is jam full. The sea of heads sways and shakes at the irresistible jokes
Some people have climbed up on the window-sills. The aisles are crammed, an the
way down to the screen, where grown-ups and children sit on the floor, their
noses in the air. Some people munch crusts of bread they’ve brought along from
home. Almost everybody is smoking. A woman laughs, holding the baby she is
nursing. In one corner, at the end of one of the aisles jammed with people
standing, a girl laughs, but every now and then her expression reveals a look of
Her body moves slightly. Clinging to her from the rear is a man bathed in sweat.
They are making love standing there among the crowd, which notices nothing and
goes on laughing.
In the balcony ANGELO is holding hands with ROSA.
The curtain over the entrance is open. People are also standing there,
seeing what they can from the distance, even a corner of the screen
through the forest of heads. But the line continues on outside…All the
way to the entrance of the movie house, out in the square. There are
crowds of people, shivering from the cold, who protest, shove, risk
provoking incidents. The PRIEST, Father Adelfio, is exhausted, tries to
calm them down.
Don’t shove! There’s no room! For
heaven’s sake! I can’t
give another showing, it’s late!
VOICES IN CROWD
Father Adelfio, we’ve been here for
an hour! There are people inside
who’ve seen it twice! ! ! Move on!!
Ouch!! My foot!!!
It has just stopped raining, the bell-tower rings eleven o’clock. On
the poster of the film a ‘ LAST DAY’ sticker. The PRIEST, the
TICKET-SELLER, the USHER and TWO CARABINIERES push the crowd back, close the
front door. The protest grows louder. Fists pound the door.
Open up!!! Father Adelfio!!
(The audience in the
theatre hears the uproar.
Ssssh! Sssssh! Be quiet out there!!
What the hell!
(From the window of the
projection booth, ALFREDO
and SALVATORE look at the
crowd down below, yelling
and complaining. Some of
the people look up at
VOICES IN CROWD
Alfredooo! We want to get in!…
Tomorrow you’re taking it off!
(ALFREDO spreads his arms
out as if to say there s
nothing he can do.)
Why can’t we show the same film
It’s got to be sent to another town.
And if we don’t the owner of that
movie house gets pissed off.
The crowd sways nervously. The CARABINIERES give order.
Stop! Go home, all of you! Otherwise
somebody’s going to end up in jail!’
‘Joe! A mob doesn’t think, doesn’t
know what it’s doing…’
(SALVATORE gives him a
curious, inquisitive look.
Spencer Tracy said it in Fury.
What’d you say if we let these poor
devils see the film, Toto?
(SALVATORE stares at him
in amazement, all
Wonderful! But how can it be done?
ALFREDO turns away from the window. He gives a smirk, imitates the tough
American movie stars.
You don’t believe my words, but
you’ll have to believe your own
eyes!…And now get your ass off
that damn stool, boy!
SALVATORE laughs, eagerly, as if he were about to see a whole new movie. He
climbs off the stool. Both of them move towards the projector…
28 PROJECTION BOOTH AND SQUARE. INT/EXT. EVENING
Trying not to put his hand in front of the lens, ALFREDO removes the
frame with the glass that protects the projection. He wheels it around
and motions SALVATORE to look…On the wall behind the projector:
the film picture appears gradually, reflected by the glass, moves as the
glass moves all the way over to the window looking out over the square.
There it disappears. SALVATORE can barely believe his eyes, as if it
were a piece of magic. He takes a quick look through the hole to see if
the film is still showing on the screen. It is.
Go to the window, boy, and have a
SALVATORE goes over to the window. Looks out. The reflected
beam of light ends up on the white row of houses facing the
square. It’s like another screen. Except the images are
backwards, like when you look in a mirror. And here and there
are the windows of the houses…For SALVATORE, it’s a
wonderful spectacle, like a dream, ravishing.
Alfredo, it’s beautiful.
(A voice is heard in the
crowd of people jammed
around the entrance to the
VOICE IN CROWD
Hey, look there!! The movie!!
(All heeds turn to look at
the house behind them.)
Oh, praise the Lord!! It’s true!
Look! The movie!! There’s Toto!!
Hurry! Hurry!…THANKS, ALFRED0000!!
And everybody runs over to the other side of the square, in front
of the strange new screen. ALFREDO and SALVATORE watch with glittering eyes.
SALVATORE lays his hand on the shoulder of his great pal.
Good for you, Alfredo!
A close-up of Toto projected on the houses, and one of the windows opens. A MAN
appears, in his pajamas. Dazzled by the light, he shades his eyes with his hand.
He sees all those people looking at him and laughing together.
Shut the window!! Shut the window! Go
The MAN is dazed. Doesn’t now what’s going on. Looks around, and sees the
black-and-white figures of the film dancing around him. He pops back inside,
slams the window shut, almost cared.
VOICES IN CROWD
Sound!!! Sound!! Alfredooooo!!
What do you say, should we make them
ALFREDO takes the loudspeaker of the monitor, rings it over to the window,
turns it around towards the square. He turns up he volume and the sound-track
fills the square. A chorus of approval.
Aaaaaaaa! At last!
(Looking at SALVATORE)
Do you want to go down there?
(SALVATORE gives a
SALVATORE runs on. ALFREDO looks wistfully towards the huge image in the
square. Down in the square SALVATORE heads for the crowd, his eyes trained on
the house-front screen. Behind him, the door of the movie house opens. The
PRIEST, Father Adelfio, sees the film being projected on the house front,
the people standing or sitting on the ground, laughing. His eyes nearly pop out
of his head. Then he motions over the TICKET-SELLER, whispers something into his
ear. The TICKET-SELLER strides over to the shivering spectators, pulls the pad
of tickets out of his pocket.
Ladies and gentlemen! You have to buy
tickets! Reduced rate!
An irresistible chorus of Bronx cheers washes over him. SALVATORE looks around,
Fuck off!! The square belongs to
(The VILLAGE IDIOT peers
Out Of the crowd, all
No!!! The square’s mine!!! Come on,
kids, no joking around here!!!
The crowd roars with laughter. SALVATORE laughs too, as if carried away by it
all. And over the general merriment looms the shadow of ALFREDO, standing in the
window of the projection booth. All at once, on the house-front screen, the
image of Toto slows down for an instant, a white blister appears and spreads
until it fills the whole screen. The crowd gives a start of bewilderment and
fear. SALVATORE jerks his head around to look at the booth.
29 PROJECTION BOOTH. INT. DAY
The film bursts violently into flame among the gears and sprockets of the
projector. ALFREDO is taken off-guard. He breaks the film running into the take-
up reel, but is unable to do it for the delivery reel. He grabs the film which
is catching fire and pulls it out quickly, tries to stop the flames from
reaching the reel in the f reproof housing. A desperate race against the speed
of the fire. The flames on the floor burn his legs. ALFREDO gives a jump, slows
down the movement of his hands for an instant and inevitably the flames run
ahead, reach the upper housing. It’s like an explosion. The flames leap out,
striking him full in the face. ALFREDO doesn’t have time to scream, struggles
desperately and falls to the floor. Meanwhile the flames envelop everything.
The flash of the flames flares up in the windows of the projection booth.
SALVATORE is appalled, elbows his way through the moving
crowd. Inside the movie house the murmuring of the audience can be heard,
growing louder and louder. A scream…
3I:CINEMA PARADISO. INT. EVENING
A violent spurt of flames leaps out of the mouth of the plaster lion’s head,
into the darkness broken by the screams of people rushing for the exits.
32 SQUARE AND CINEMA PARADISO ENTRANCE. EXT. EVENING
The crowd streaks out of the movie house, enveloped in a cloud of black smoke.
Heeeelp! Run for your lives!!!
In the general panic, SALVATORE tries in vain to get inside, elbows his way
towards the street with the stairs leading to the projection booth. The audience
clashes against him, knocks him to the ground, almost trampling him underfoot.
He is suddenly seized by a superhuman force; gets up, claws his way desperately
ahead, with people falling on top of him and to the floor. He finally succeeds,
starts up the stairs…
33 CINEMA PARADISO. STAIRS AND PROJECTION BOOTH. INT. EVENING
The place is filled with smoke. The air is suffocating. SALVATORE streaks up the
stairs, gasping for breath. The projection booth is enveloped inflames.
ALFREDO’s body on the floor, burning. SALVATORE moves quickly, throws a blanket
over his shoulders, drags him by the feet over to the stairs, as boxes and other
objects fall on him. Using the same blanket, he stamps out the flames that have
seared ALFREDO’S clothes. With the force of desperation, he drags him further
down the stairs which have been reached by the smoke but not by the flames.
ALFREDO doesn’t move, his face is burnt. SALVATORE looks at him and only now is
panic-stricken, lets out a terrified shriek, like a wounded colt.
Alfredo! Heeeelp! Help!!!
34 CINEMA PARADISO. INT. EVENING
The plaster lion looks like a dragon spitting fire and smoke. The statue of the
Virgin Mary is also in flames. And the movie screen.
35 SQUARE AND CINEMA PARADISO. EXT. EVENING
The fire has been put out. Nothing remains of the movie house but the skeleton.
Everything has gone up in smoke.
People stand around, dismayed. They gather around the PRIEST, who is at once
grieved and shocked, to express their solidarity and comfort.
What a pity! Poor Alfredo! What a
terrible thing!! Cheer up, Father, is
there something we can do?’
Burnt up…Burnt up.
What’ll we do now! The town will have
to get along without movies! Who’s
got the money to rebuild it?
CICCIO SPACCAFICO, the man who won the Sisal pools, comes up, dressed in style.
He looks up at the charred cinema. It looks like a battlefield after an enemy
attack. From the smoke and ashes to…
36 CINEMA PARADISO. EXT. EVENING
…The great lighted sign of the CINEMA PARADISO . The movie house has been
rebuilt. New facade. New billboards. There are people
moving about the entrance. It is the evening of the inauguration…
37 CINEMA PARADISO. INT. EVENING
The lobby is crowded with people, authorities, special guests. There is the
MAYOR, FATHER ADELFIO and the new owner, CICCIO SPACCAFICO, dressed to the
teeth. The MAYOR cuts the ribbon. Flashbulbs pop. Clapping.
Cheers’ Congratulations, Don Ciccio!
The procession advances towards the stairs leading into the theatre. FATHER
ADELFIO, with a nostalgic sigh, blesses the lobby, then the corridor. Lastly,
the new auditorium, which resounds with toasts and cheers.
To the Cinema Paradiso!
The PRIEST sprinkles the new seats, the walls, the screen with holy water…
38 CINEMA PARADISO. PROJECTION BOOTH. INT. EVENING
Now FATHER ADELFIO is blessing the brand-new projection booth. He also blesses
the new projectionist: SALVATORE. He is very nervous, but serious, self-
possessed. His worried-looking mother is also there for the occasion. The PRIEST
turns to SPACCAFICO.
How’d you solve his being under age?
I took out a license as
projectionist, thanks to friends down
at the guild offices. But I don’t
know a thing about it. Officially, I
do the job…
(Smiling at Salvatore)
…but Toto earns the money.
Always be careful, my boy. Don’t ever
go to sleep. Be sure another accident
doesn’t happen. Do everything poor
Alfredo taught you. And may God bless
SALVATORE nods his head seriously, assuming a responsible expression. His
mother kisses the PRIEST’s hand.
Thanks, Father. Thanks.
And now enough of this gloomy
atmosphere. Life goes on! I want to
see you happy and smiling!
39 CINEMA PARADISO. INT. EVENING
Laughter. The laughter of the large audience at the first showing of the
inauguration film. Among the spectators, SALVATORE’S mother, MARIA, and his kid
sister, El A. Up on the screen, a man and a woman kiss. The first time a kiss
has been seen at the Cinema Paradiso. The audience murmurs, surprised and
Ooooooh! They’re kissing!! Look at
that!! Christ, that’s news!!
An OLD LADY sitting next to the MAYOR, crosses herself, flabbergasted. CICCIO
SPACCAFICO chuckles. Rubs his hands: these are going to be golden times for him.
FATHER ADELFIO gets up and stalks out of the theatre, indignant; he’ll
never set foot in the place again. The love theme gets louder and
40 PROJECTION BOOTH. INT. EVENING
The same music spreads through the booth from the monitor. SALVATORE is by
himself. He is watching the film through the hole but strangely enough, the
story doesn’t absorb him. ALFREDO’S absence makes him nervous, he gazes at the
stool he used to sit on. Il has been repainted. A voice from the rear of the
SALVATORE turns and at the top of the stairs sees SIGNORA
ANNA and behind her, ALFREDO, her husband. He is wearing a
pair of dark glasses and walks with the kelp of a cane. He has
lost his sight, but not his spirit. He smiles:
Any room for me in this Cinema
(SALVATORE runs over and
Come in, Alfredo.
Toto, will you bring him home when
you close down?
Yes. Signora Anna.
I’m glad you came.
ALFREDO is now sitting there immobile. He listens to the soundtrack of the film.
SALVATORE studies the way he stares into empty space, and the idea of darkness
frightens him. There is something new in ALFREDO’S manner, as if having grazed
death and the loss of his sight had endowed him with a deeper knowledge of men
OK. OK. But now that I’ve got a job,
I’11 probably stop going…
Don’t do that…Sooner or later
you’ll be left empty-handed.
Why? What do you mean?
Toto, this isn’t for you. For the
moment, the Cinema Paradiso needs
you, and you need the Cinema
Paradiso. But it won’t last…Some
day you’ll have other things
to do, more important things…
(He reaches out and
touches SALVATORE’S face
to ‘feel’ his expression.)
That’s right, more important. I know
it. Now that I’ve lost my sight I see
I see everything I didn’t see
(As ALFREDO moves his hand
from SALVATORE’s face, we
see that he is now a young
man, and that ALFREDO is
And it’s all thanks to you, who saved
my life. And I’ll never forget it…
understand his strange
words. ALFREDO can ‘feel’
he is troubled.)
And don’t put on that look. I haven’t
gone off my head yet. You want proof?
And he gives a joking smile. SALVATORE is curious, expects one of his fiendish
Yes. I want proof.
For example, at this moment the
film’s out of focus. Go see.
SALVATORE stands up in disbelief. He looks through the hole, and indeed the film
is out of focus. He puts it back into focus, flabbergasted.
It’s hard to explain, Toto…
41 CAFE IN THE SQUARE. INT/EXT. MORNING
As the BILL-POSTER attaches to the café door a poster of Catene – the
coming attraction at the Cinema Paradiso – CICCIO SPACCAFICO is
speaking on the phone in the phone booth. He is clearly peeved.
Only two days? Are you joking?!…
What do I care if all the copies
are reserved?…Catene for only two
days in a place like this! Why,
people will eat me alive!…
(Standing beside him
listening is SALVATORE. He
is carrying school
books under his ann. In
the café, several curious
ONLOOKERS laugh as through
the café window they watch
some unemployed PEASANT
MEN dancing together at
the club. SPACCAFICO
listens nervously, then
shrieks as if he were
about to eat the phone.)
…I know, I know. But even if I
start showing at eight in the morning
it wouldn’t be enough! This is a big
town now and you people at the
Titanus know it perfectly well! I’m
your sole agent and if I get pissed
off I’ll write straight
to Lombardo, in Rome!! I’ll give you
guys a good run-around!! If I get my
dander up, I can let fly, if my
SPACCAFICO AND SALVATORE are now outside the café, head towards the square. In
front of the movie house, the CHARWOMAN is at work. SPACCAFICO is so nervous he
lights two cigarettes without noticing it. SALVATORE is turning something over
in his mind.
Don Ciccio, I’ve got an idea…You
remember that old abandoned movie
house where they’re supposed to build
those low-rent houses?
So what’s that got to do with it?
The projector’s all rusty, but I
could fix it in two or three days.
Give the place a good cleaning, put
in some seats and bring in a
projectionist and we’ll show Catene
in two houses.
What the fuck you talking about? You
getting into the act too, Toto?
Titanus has trouble giving me even
one copy and I have to say thanks! If
I ask for two, the least they’ll do
is cut off my head and play ball with
A shrewd look glitters in SALVATORE s eyes. He smiles.
Who says we need two copies?
42 CINEMA PARADISO. INT. DAY
The house is jammed with people. Almost bursting at the seams. The last scenes
of Catene move across the screen. Tears stream down the faces of the men and
women. The children are unusually silent. Even the BLACKSMITH is awake, indeed
whispers ahead of time all the lines of Nazzari and Yvonne Sanson, knows them by
heart. Among the crowd in the balcony there is ALFREDO and his wife, the MAYOR,
DON VINCENZO the landowner, the schoolteachers. Now the music is loud, heart-
rending. ‘THE END’ appears on screen. The lights go on. And there is a great
din and uproar as one audience leaves and another arrives. The race for empty
seats. Quarrels. The CARABINIERES help the USHER maintain order and persuade the
people who want to see the film again to get up and leave.
That’s enough now! You’ve seen it ten
times! I need the seats! I wish you’d
all get the galloping runs!
Easy! Easy! Through the emergency
exits, quick! Stop the jabbering!!
43 CINEMA PARADISO. PROJECTION BOOTH. INT.
The end of the film slips through the sprockets. SALVATORE switches off the
motor. He is particularly fast in taking the reel out of the housing. And even
faster in dropping it into the sack BOCCIA is holding open for him.
Now get running and bring me the
first reel. Meanwhile I’ll start
showing the news!
44 VILLAGE STREETS AND COUNTRYSIDE. EXT. DAY
BOCCIA speeds like an arrow on his bicycle through the village streets. Tied to
the parcel-rack is the sack containing the second part of Catene. He now turns
off the main street and takes a short-cut down a country road. He pedals as fast
as he can. Until he disappears into the distance, beyond the trees.
45 ENTRANCE OLD ABANDONED MOVIE HOUSE. EXT. DAY
BOCCIA finally reaches the old movie house, which has been more or less spruced
up. Here too people are lined up in front of the posters of Catene. CICCIO
SPACCAFICO is waiting impatiently on an outside staircase. He too is holding a
sack, containing the first part of the film. The bicycle pulls up in front of
him. The sacks are exchanged.
Quick! Give it to me! Here’s the
first part. Get moving!
BOCCIA heads back to the Cinema Paradiso, to take the first part to SALVATORE.
SPACCAFICO dashes up the stairs, and hands the sack to a MAN standing in the
door, through which the bare projection booth can be seen, and the projector
which SALVATORE has put back into working order. SPACCAFICO yells in excitement.
Here you are! Quick, quick!! People
46 OLD ABANDONED MOVIE HOUSE. INT. DAY
In fact, inside the old freezing cold movie house, the audience is grumbling.
Everyone is wrapped in overcoats and woollen scarves and are sitting on chairs
they’ve brought from home and wooden benches. The hum of the projector is heard
at last. The lights go down. The grumbling subsides. The words ‘PART TWO’ appear
on screen and then the images of the film.
47 VARIOUS COUNTRY ROADS AND VILLAGE STREETS. EXT. DAY/SUNDOWN
Meanwhile BOCCIA pedals his way swiftly through the countryside on his way to
the Cinema Paradiso…
Now BOCCIA is on his way back to the old movie house. To carry out another
exchange of sacks containing the reels of film.
Another race back to Cinema Paradiso. BOCCIA starts looking tired, his breath is
short. And daylight starts fading into the colours of sundown.
The last fading light of sundown.-BOCCIA is pedalling once more back
to the old movie house. With the same sack tied to the parcel-rack. He
is exhausted. On his last legs. He slows down, then stops.
48 CINEMA PARADISO. INT. EVENING
The lights are still on. In the thick blanket of smoke, the crowd stirs
nervously. Shouting. Whistling.
Hey, when’s it starting!! We’ve got
ploughing to do in the morning!!
Toto, get a move on!! Heeey!!
49 PROJECTION BOOTH. INT/EXT. EVENING
In the booth, the projector is turned off. SALVATORE looks nervously
out of the window…at the square. But not a sign of BOCCIA. A CARABINIERE
peers in through one of the holes.
What are we going to do, Toto? The
whole place here is up in arms.
They’ve been waiting more than a half
What can I do?
50 OLD ABANDONED MOVIE HOUSE. INT. EVENING
Here too the audience is up in arms. They’re waiting for Part Two tostart.
CICCIO SPACCAFICO tears his hair with rage.
Where’s the fucking bastard got to?
Let’s get one thing straight, Don
Ciccio! I’m waiting ten minutes
more, and if you haven’t started…
you’re giving me my money back!!
Well said! Well said! We want our
Easy! Easy! What about my showing you
the first part again? Huh?
People shout, whistle, give Bronx cheers.
No! First part, my foot! We want to
see how the story ends!!
Down in the front row, PASQUALE, the man who sells black market cigarettes,
I’ve seen the whole works! You want
me to tell you how it ends?
A shoe comes flying at him.
Nooo! No! Shut up, you jerk!!
5I VILLAGE STREETS AND COUNTRY ROADS. EXT. EVENING
SALVATORE has got himself a bicycle and is going off to look for
BOCCIA. He pedals fast, turns into the country short cut. Looks
around not a sign of Boccia. By now it is dark. He sees a MAN in the window of
a farmhouse, calls out to him.
SALVATORE rides on. Now he’s in the open country. All of a sudden he seems to
hear something. He stops. Pricks up his ears. It’s a sort of moan – he can’t
figure out if it’s an animal or a man. He turns on the flashlight he has brought
along. Takes a closer look around.
Catches sight of a bicycle wheel on the ground behind a bush. That’s where the
moan is coming from! He creeps over in alarm. Next to the bicycle he now catches
sight of the sack with the film. And the moaning gets louder.
Boccia, what’s wrong?
(He runs over to help his
friend. Behind the bush he
discovers BOCCIA humped up
between the legs of
TERESA, a prostitute. He
moves with all the fury
of his young years.
SALVATORE has never seen
people making love before
and is speechless.)
Damn you, what are you doing?
Oh, Christ, it’s so good!!!
(And he goes on ramming it
Hey, cut it out! Go away. Shoo!
With a confused look on his face, SALVATORE picks up the sack and walks away,
looking over his shoulder at the couple who go on tossing around more and more
BOCCIA lets out a shriek of pleasure that rings through the countryside, as
SALVATORE pedals off like a madman and disappears into the trees.
52 CINEMA PARADISO. INT. DAY/EVENING
Music and the naked body of Brigitte Bardot. A row of youngsters on the main
floor stare at the naked actress, all excited. A regular rhythmic tremor runs
through them, half-hidden by the back of the seats.
A scene from a horror film. The frightened faces of the audience. Off in one
corner, the door of the men’s toilet opens and a MAN with a contented look comes
out, followed by TERESA, who motions another one to come in. In the projection
booth, SALVATORE is eating the meal his mother has brought him.
A gangster film. The tense faces of the audience. A gun battle. Rounds of
machine-gunfire in the night. The shots echo through the theatre. A LITTLE BOY
claps his hands over his ears. Alternating with the machine-gunfire on screen, a
real pistol shoots the back of one of the spectators, the landowner DON
VINCENZO, who slumps down in his seat without anybody noticing…The shooting
continues up on screen…
SALVATORE’S hand holds a lighted match under a piece of film, before the
horrified eyes of SPACCAFICO and the USHER, and the puzzled expression of
What’d I tell you? It doesn’t catch
Progress! It always arrives too late!
A scene from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. The only empty seat
in the theatre is the one where DON VINCENZO was killed. A flower
has been tied to it with string. All the other seats are taken.
ROSA and ANGELO are sitting next to each other. They are watching a
different film. But she has a baby in her arms they have got married,
have set up a family.
In the balcony, the MAN with the face of a public notary spits down
below with a contented look. But this time the main floor takes its
revenge and a blob of shit hits him square in the face.
53 CINEMA PARADISO. INT. MORNING
In the morning the theatre is empty. All the doors are shut. Light filters in
through the open windows up above, illuminates the posters of coming attractions
and the yellowish screen. Off-screen, a woman’s voice
and a boy’s voice are heard.
Come on…That’s right…relax…
…Don’t be scared…
Is it true that if I bleed I’ve got
to squeeze lemon juice on it?
TERESA’S VOICE (Off-screen)
(A loud laugh)
Lemon juice?…That’s a new one for
you! Who tells you this crap…Take
it easy…That’s right…You see,
it’s not painful, is it?
Slow pan along the walls of the theatre, the empty aisles,
discovers SALVATORE on the floor between the seats with
TERESA, the prostitute who has already been seen. SALVATORE is
making love for the first time in his life. He is awkward and
clumsy. There is an uncertain look in his eyes, his livid face is
dripping with sweat.
…There you are! That’s right,
that’s right! Keep going…
(SALVATORE is quicker, has
learned the lesson. TERESA
goads him on.)
Ah!!! There, now you’re a real man! A
man! ? A real calf!
slackens into a deep sigh
54 VARIOUS SETTINGS. INT/EXT. DAY
The blade of a knife, clutched in a hardened hand. A blow. A cry of pain. A calf
falls like a dead weight to the ground…SALVATORE photographs the animal in
the throes of death with his 8mm movie camera. As well as the faces of the MEN
who now bleed and skin it quickly. In the vast slaughter-house, the voices of
the men and animals mingle together.
SALVATORE’S eye is quick to catch the most unexpected expressions of ordinary
people. His movie camera is always ready, like a hunter’s rifle. Now he is
A meeting in the square: the passionate reactions of the peasants listening to a
speaker who flails his arms around.
At school: the old SCHOOLMISTRESS sitting at her desk, sunk in God knows what
dreams, her eyes staring off into empty space, as a tear runs down her pale,
unhappy face, and the unknowing STUDENTS carry out their assignments.
At the railroad station: the nervous excitement of the people waiting on the
platforms. SALVATORE pans his camera on to TWO MEN fighting. But an arriving
train comes in between. Salvatore follows the train, pans along the cars. The
-A door opens and the passengers climb out. Several TRADERS, a CARABINTERE, a
group of commuting STUDENTS, the TICKET-COLLECTOR, a distinguished looking
COUPLE and lastly, a GIRL who stops in the middle of the viewfinder. SALVATORE
is immediately attracted by her face. He goes on shooting without leaving it a
moment. He follows her through the lens. She is very beautiful, must be around
sixteen, a simple, sweet face, blue eyes. She is certainly the daughter of the
distinguished looking COUPLE who got off just before she did. The little family
moves off down the platform. Salvatore follows the girl’s movements, as if
hypnotized. Now she passes by him, turns towards him for one moment, as if
trying to figure out where he is aiming that funny-looking gadget. SALVATORE
smiles at her, entranced.
55 HIGH SCHOOL. COURTYARD. ENTRANCE. EXT. MORNING
The JANITOR is ringing the bell. In the courtyard, on the other side of
the gate, the STUDENTS prepare to enter. SALVATORE is with a group
of schoolmates, including BOCCIA. And they all stare, wide-eyed, at
the GIRL from the station. She has her books under her arm and is
walking by herself.
You know that one there?
She’s new. Not bad though. Nice-
(SALVATORE has the look of
somebody seeking for an
idea, some way of picking
up a conversation with
Her father s the new bank director.
Loaded, luxury and easy living!
People who jerk off with a shirt so
they won’t get their hands dirty.
All at once, BOCCIA and SALVATORE notice that the GIRL drops
her lunch without noticing as she is about to enter the school. They
fly off, swift as arrows. It’s a chance not to be missed. BOCCIA is
the quicker, is already in the lead. SALVATORE gives an angry
gesture. A flash come into his eyes, the same flash he had as a little
boy when he finds the right way to hit home. He picks up his step,
trips BOCCIA and brings him to the ground. He pounces on him
and lets go with his fist. He starts running again. Picks the
bundle off the ground. Catches up with the GIRL from the
station, nervous and inexperienced, but polite.
Look, you dropped this.
And he hands her her lunch with a smile. She recognizes him.
Oh, thanks. I hadn’t noticed…
She takes the bundle as SALVATORE touches her hand delicately.
My name’s Salvatore…And yours?
Elena. My name’s Elena.
SALVATORE is very flustered. He feels as if all his blood were
throbbing in his head. He tries to say something else, but the words
catch in his throat.
I…I…The other time at the
BOCCIA suddenly grabs him by the collar and yanks him away. ELENA is frightened,
puts her hand over her eyes so as not to see.
56:CINEMA PARADISO.PROJECTION BOOTH.INT.AFTERNOON
SALVATORE has a black eye, swollen shut. He is setting up a little 8mm projector
on a stool. ALFREDO is sitting in one corner. He has come to keep him company.
He listens to the sound-track of the movie being shown.
Chaplin’s Modern Times! Right, Toto?
That’s right, Modern Times.
I’ve shown it so many times I know it
by heart. The first time I showed
it, in 1940, was the Sunday my first
wife died. They kept it hidden from
me all day so they wouldn’t have to
close down the movie house. I only
found out that night, after the last
show. Those are things you never
(Changing his tone.)
So, Toto, how are these home movies
(SALVATORE has switched on
the little projector and a
square of light appears on
the wall beside ALFREDO,
with the scenes shot in
(The shots of the
What is it, what is it? What’s the
It’s people in the slaughter-house
killing a calf. There’s blood all
over the floor, like a lake. And
through this lake another calf passes
by on its way to die.
ALFREDO is concentrated, as if SALVATORE’S description transmitted the
real image to him, the colours, the forms. The railway station has appeared on
the wall, and the sequence of ELENA. SALVATORE does not move, does not say a
word, as he gazes at those blue eyes looking into the camera. ALFREDO senses
something funny in the boy’s s11ence.
Now what can you see?
Nothing, there’s nothing. It’s all
out of focus.
Is there a woman?…Tell me the
(SALVATORE is shamed,
uncertain, doesn’t know
whet to say. A tender look
filters through ALFREDO’s
dark glasses. He has
obviously caught on and
There is a woman.
SALVATORE is forced to admit it, with a sigh.
Yes, it’s a girl I saw at the
What’s she like? What’s she like?…
And as other shots of ELENA appear on the screen, SALVATORE describes her. As
only somebody in love could.
She’s nice. My age…Slender, with
long hair, brunette. She had big blue
eyes, a simple expression and a
little beauty mark on her lip, but
really tiny. You can only see it
close-up. And when she smiles…She
makes you feel…
He stops. Only now does he realize that he has let himself be carried away by
passion, by the desire to talk about her. ALFREDO smiles, spellbound…
Eh! Love…what a mystery!
(SALVATORE turns off the
projector and heaves a
deep sigh, almost of
sympathy does him a lot of
good. It’s nice to be
understood. He moves over
closer to him. ALFREDO
runs his hand through his
I understand you, Toto…The ones
with blue eyes are the
most beautiful. Whatever you do, you
can’t make friends with
(SALVATORE is comforted by
the way he talks. He
didn’t think it
was possible to put into
words the things he has
felt since meeting
ELENA. He nods his head.
Eh, there’s nothing to be done about
it! The heavier a man is,
the deeper his footprints. And if
he’s in love, he suffers,
because he knows he’s up a one-way
street. Because love is a
meaningless thing when a man gets it
into his head to do what
(SALVATORE is touched by
his sensitivity, by his
intense, passionate, sweet
way of speaking.)
What you say is wonderful! But sad…
They’re not my words. John Wayne said
it in Shepherd of the Hills.
SALVATORE suddenly changes expression, as if discovering he was being made fun
(And they burst out
A grey, windy day. It is opening-time and the shutters of the movie
house are being rolled up. SALVATORE is about to enter through the
small door of the spiral staircase, when in the distance he catches sight
ELENA crossing a street with her books under her arm. She is alone.
SALVATORE doesn’t stop to think twice, dashes off, runs through streets
full of dust, another square, turns the corner, but has lost sight of her.
He looks around in all directions there she is! He starts running again.
And finally catches up with her, all out of breath, practically
speechless with emotion.
Hi. Why are you running?
No particular reason…
(He is entranced by her
eyes. He wants to tell her
all sorts of
things, say all the words
he has memorized a
thousand times. But
now he can’t get them out.
His knees tremble. He does
his best to
overcome his confusion,
but all that comes out
Nice day, huh?
(A gust of wind envelops
them in a cloud of dust
and a clap of
thunder rends the air.
ELENA laughs, amused by
Yes, nice day.
(SALVATORE laughs too. He
gazes at her long hair
tossed by the wind. She
turns to leave.)
…I’ve got to go now. Bye-bye.
(ELENA walks away. And
SALVATORE also turns to
leave. Only now is he
seized by disappointment,
regret at not having made
the best of the
opportunity. He talks to
…What an idiot! What an idiot!
‘Nice day’! Christ!!
SALVATORE projects images of ELENA on his wall. He lies across his bed gazing at
You probably don’t believe me, but
I’m going to become the leading man
in your life. Sure, I don’t look like
Marlon Brando, but look at me, really
look at me. Am I really so ugly? So
should I try once more? Maybe It’ll
succeed. What do you
ELENA seems to be saying, Yes. As SALVATORE kisses ELENA, her image disappears.
He is left with his face against the wall in the white light from the
59:PHONEB00TH AND ELENA’S HOUSE.INT.DAY
SALVATORE is in a phone booth. The telephone will certainly help him feel less
Hello, can I speak to Elena, please?
ELENA’s voice, changes his
tone, turns sweeter, more
Is that you, Elena?
Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t recognize
your voice. This is Salvatore,
SALVATORE finally speaks, says everything all in one breath, without stopping,
without hesitating, in order to leave no room for shyness.
Listen, I know that every time we see
each other I make a fool of myself,
but I’m not like that, I swear. It’s
just that when I see you, I feel shy,
the right words don’t come to me, I
don’t have the courage to say that
all I do is think about you…
(He has finally got it
out. He’s dripping with
sweat, but happy at having
succeeded. He continues.)
That’s right, Elena, you’re the last
thing I think of when I go to sleep
and the first when I wake up in the
morning. And at night I always dream
of you. I know, it’s not good on the
phone. But please, don’t get me
wrong. Because I love you very
If you don’t stop phoning her, I’m
calling the police!
But excuse me, who’s speaking?
At ELENA’S house, a WOMAN who is visibly in a state is speaking on the phone.
I’m Elena’s mother, you filthy pig!
SALVATORE feels like dropping through the floor, tries to get a word in to
explain, to apologize, but the flood of insults overwhelms him.
I’m sorry, Signora, maybe there’s a
And don’t call my daughter any more.
SALVATORE has no choice but to hang up, disappointed, defeated. He’s so mad he
starts slapping himself.
Good Friday. ALFREDO comes out of his house, leaning on
SALVATORE’s shoulder. They go off down the street, towards the
church. SALVATORE has finished recounting his misadventure.
I told you, the blue-eyed ones are
the most difficult.
But why? There must be some way to
make her understand!
Don’t think about it, Toto. Don’t
even try. With feelings, there’s
nothing to understand.
SALVATORE gives an angry gesture. This time ALFREDO’S words do not quiet his
frenzy, don’t help him. He moves away from him a few steps.
ALFREDO stands there motionless in the middle of the road.
Stop it! I’ve had enough of your
sermons! You act as if you created
(A bicycle streaks by
ALFREDO, who gives a
startled jump, as if it
were about to
run into him. He raises
his voice, panic-
Heeey! Totooooo! Don’t get pissed off
with me now! Come here! I don’t
know where the fuck I have to go.
(A MAN on a bicycle almost
collides with ALFREDO.
SALVATORE fumes, goes over
to him listlessly. ALFREDO
puts his hand back on his
shoulder and they start
walking again. ALFREDO has
calmed down, but his voice
And the next time be careful how you
talk. Not to take credit away
from the Lord, but if I had created
the world, in all modesty, certain
things would have come out better.
But unfortunately such was not the
You see, it s like I say. You always
have an answer for everything.
I want to make you happy, Toto! I’m
going to tell you a story.
(And he squeezes
SALVATORE’S shoulder. It’s
the signal for taking a
rest. They sit in a
doorway. ALFREDO starts
telling his story, and his
way of speaking is
hypnotic, magical. With
those eyes lost in empty
space, it’s as if his
thoughts and his words
came in from some other
Once upon a time a king gave a feast
and there were all the most beautiful
princesses of the realm. Basta, one
of the guards, saw the king’s
daughter: she was the loveliest of
all! And he immediately fell in love
with her. But what could a poor
soldier do compared with a king’s
daughter?!…One day he managed
to meet her and told her he couldn’t
live without her. The princess was so
struck by the depth of his feeling
that she said to the soldier ‘If you
will wait a hundred days and a
hundred nights beneath my balcony,
then in the end I’ll be yours.’
Christ, the soldier ran off there and
waited! One day, two days,
ten, twenty…Every night she looked
out of her window, but he never
budged. Come rain, wind, snow, never
budged! The birds shat on him and the
bees ate him alive! After ninety
nights he was gaunt and pale and
tears streamed from his eyes but he
couldn’t hold them back. He didn’t
even have the strength to sleep any
more. The princess kept watch…And
on the ninety-ninth night, the
soldier got up, picked up his chair
No! You mean right at the end?
(SALVATORE is amazed,
dumbfounded; that ending
has made a deep
start walking again.)
That’s right, Toto, right at the end?
And don’t ask me what it means. If
you figure it out, let me know…
I’ll be damned’
Before the high altar, the Virgin Mary in tears clutches three spikes inher
hand. And beside her is another statue Christ descended from the
cross. MEN and WOMEN stand in line to kiss Christ’s wounds. Many people are
sitting between the pews. SALVATORE helps ALFREDO take a seat, and at that
moment catches sight at the far end of ELENA on her way to the confessional.
She kneels down on one side, just as FATHER ADELFIO comes out of the middle
booth and goes to the altar to say something to the sacristan. SALVATORE’S eyes
light up. He has had a brainstorm.
He leans over and whispers something into ALFREDO’s ear. ALFREDO nods his head.
SALVATORE is so happy that he gives him a pat on the cheek, like a caress. Then
he hurries over to the PRIEST. Says something in a low voice, gesticulates with
some agitation, points to the pew where ALFREDO is sitting. The PRIEST tries to
say he can’t now, but SALVATORE insists, and wins. The PRIEST goes over to
ALFREDO, leans over.
What is it, Alfredo? Right now, of
(In a grave voice)
Father Adelfio, I have a very serious
doubt that is torturing my soul. And
you’ve got to help me, because I’ve
lost all peace of mind…
SALVATORE watches from a distance. He sees the PRIEST put on an alarmed
expression and then sit down beside ALFREDO. Everything’s ready. He creeps over
to the confessional. ELENA is there, kneeling down waiting for the PRIEST to
arrive. In an instant, without anyone noticing, SALVATORE pops inside the
confessional. He shuts the little door below and draws the purple curtain. On
the other side of grille, only a few inches away, those eyes that keep him awake
Father, I have sinned…
(In a low voice)
We’ll talk about that later.
Sssssh, Be quiet, pretend
everything’s normal. I’m Salvatore.
ELENA’S eyes pop in amazement.
What are you doing here?
Meanwhile ALFREDO and the PRIEST continue their unusual and animated discussion.
The PRIEST is appalled, crosses himself.
But Alfredo, what you’re saying is
I know. But take the-miracle of the
loaves and fishes, for example! I
think about it a lot…How is it
In the confessional, the whispered conversation between SALVATORE and ELENA
There was a terrible rumpus at home.
My mother told my father. And how
could you have mistaken my voice?!
SALVATORE is mortified, on tenterhooks, keeps an eye on ALFREDO and the PRIEST
through a crack in the curtain.
Forgive me, Elena. It was stupid of
me. But I had to talk to you.
She looks up at him and her eyes are even more beautiful in the candlelight.
This time SALVATORE finds the courage to speak to her calmly, with
determination. That grille probably helps him, allows him to see without being
You’re so beautiful, Elena…That’s
what I wanted to tell you. When I
meet you, I can’t put two words
together because…you give me the
shivers. I don’t know what you do in
these situations, what you’re
supposed to say. It’s the first time.
But I think I’m in love with you.
ELENA gazes through the grille at the two shining specks of his eyes. She is
bewildered by that flood of passion. At that moment, an OLD WOMAN kneels down on
the other side of the confessional and her face appears behind the grille.
Father, I have sinned…
(SALVATORE turns lo her,
I absolve you in the name of the
Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.
Go in peace, my daughter.
(And he slams the panel
shut in her face. ELENA is
barely able to control her
When you laugh, you’re even more
She pulls herself together again and puts on a serious, but tender look.
Salvatore, it’s awfully sweet of you.
And even though I don’t know you, I
like you. But…I’m not in love with
For SALVATORE, it’s as if a knife had plunged straight into his heart. He sits
there gazing into her eyes, at the beauty mark on her lip, without moving. Then
through the crack sees ALFREDO and the PRIEST conversing nervously, God knows
what they’re saying. And he turns back to her.
I don’t care. I’ll wait.
For you to fall in love with me too.
Listen carefully. Every night, when I
get off work, I’ll come and wait
beneath your window. Every night.
When you change your mind, open your
window. That’s all. I’ll
He smiles at her. She is upset by those exaggerated words, but also intrigued.
The PRIEST has meanwhile solved the problem that ALFREDO has made up as an
You understand now? You see it
Oh yes, father. Now everything’s
And the next time don’t go around
saying such heresy. You survived the
fire at the movie house. But no one
can save you from the fire of Hell!
62:SQUARE AND ELENA’S HOUSE. EXT. NIGHT
Sweet poignant music accompanies SALVATORE’s long waits beneath the window of
ELENA’S room… A warm early summer night. The last spectators wander off into
the streets. The VILLAGE IDIOT makes his rounds of the square.
SALVATORE is beneath her window. He waits. The shutters are open,
but not the windows with the curtains. ELENA peers at him through a
A rainy night. SALVATORE is back there again. Determined,
headstrong. A dog keeps him company, taking shelter under an
overhanging roof. The window is shut…
SALVATORE’S hand adds another check to an endless row of checks on
the calendar. A check a day…
Another night. Wind. The window is still shut. SALVATORE’s eyes are
the eyes of a lovesick man prepared to face the hardest battles, just to
win, just to conquer his loved one. She peeks at him through the crack,
but he can’t see her…
The paces of the calendar are covered with checks. Several months
have gone by. SALVATORE adds a check on the last page, on 30 December. Tomorrow
night will be…New Year’s Eve. The streets are empty. Loud merry voices can be
heard coming from the houses. Old discarded objects hail down from balconies.
Firecrackers explode here and there. SALVATORE is there in the same old place,
as usual. The shutters are open, but not the windows, and all is darkness
inside. SALVATORE is wrapped in a large overcoat and stamps his feet to keep
63:SALVATORES HOUSE. GIANCALDO. INT. NIGHT
Toasts are being prepared in SALVATORE’s house. MARIA is there
with her daughter, LIA, then ALFREDO with his wife, ANNA.
SALVATORE is the only one missing for the “family” to be complete.
The bottle of spumante and the Christmas cake are ready. The radio is
on with the New Year’s Eve programme.
But why hasn’t Toto shown up? The
movie house is closed at this hour!
ALFREDO has a know-all look. He tries to put her mind at rest.
He had to do something for me…
Over the radio, music and merrymaking
More sounds of merrymaking, coming from ELENA’s house. SALVATORE listens to it,
sees the shadows of her parents and relatives, maybe even hers, ready to
celebrate, welcome in the New Year. But further on, that window remains dark and
shut. SALVATORE gazes at it again.
There is a new look in his eyes, like a gleam of hope. Maybe it’s the
specialness of that night, maybe it’s the fire crackers, the festive atmosphere,
but something tells him that’s going to be the right night. The night when
she’ll open her window. In fact, a light suddenly goes on in the room.
SALVATORE’S eyes sparkle, have already taken on the hue of victory.
The window is pulled open, and his heart starts pounding like a drum. The music
reaches its climax. Two hands come out. SALVATORE shuts his eyes for a moment,
to hold back the flood of feeling. He opens them again and sees……The hands
reach out and take hold of the shutters and pull them shut. The light goes out.
It is midnight. An echoing voice does the countdown.
Six, five, four, three, two, one,
zero! Happy New Year! Happy New Year!
And a roar of voices, shouts, explosions, fills the air. SALVATORE has remained
standing there immobile, speechless. Disappointed. Defeated.
65 SALVATORE S HOUSE. GIANCALDO. INT. NIGHT
At his house, glasses are about to be raised. There is a strange, tense
merriment. MARIA is unable to conceal her concern, her presentiment. She glances
at the door, hoping to see SALVATORE appear.
There’s nothing to worry about. He’s
probably with his friends.
Here’s to you! Here’s to you! Happy
For Toto too, here’s to you!! Happy
New Year! !
Everybody echoes MARIA’S toast…
66 ELENA S HOUSE. EXT. NIGHT
But SALVATORE is not happy in these first few minutes of the New Year. He feels
hurt, humiliated, rejected. He walks off amidst the old discarded objects flying
down from the terraces. That was his last night. He’s not showing up beneath
that balcony any more.
67 CINEMA PARADISO. PROJECTION BOOTH. INT. AFTERNOON
Outside there is a violent thunderstorm. The pounding of the rain and the
rumbling of the thunder drown out the sound-track of the film being shown. Two
buckets are on the floor to catch the water dripping through the roof. SALVATORE
is alone. For the first time he feels he hates the profession he’s got into. He
is tearing up the calendar where he checked off the nights he spent waiting for
ELENA. He tears it into a thousand pieces, as if trying to wipe out the traces
of his grief. He is so absorbed in his thoughts that he doesn’t notice that
someone has appeared at the top of the stairs and quietly entered the room. And
now stands there watching him in silence. The thunder is deafening. That someone
is ELENA. She comes up behind him, realizes he is thinking
about her. Whispers.
Loud passionate music is heard on the monitor. SALVATORE turns and sees her as
if in a dream. It is a sudden blow to the heart. The look on her face is
wonderfully sweet, the look of somebody who knows she is madly loved and
who now realizes at last that she is in love too. For SALVATORE it is an
overwhelming, almost unbearable moment…A long passionate embrace that is
never-ending. They are happy, cling to each other never to leave each other
They spin around, end up against the wall where strips of film are hanging, the
first-part endings and the trailers. Another intense look, their eyes
locked…And it is their first kiss. A kiss at first timid, hesitant, almost
clumsy, and then becomes resolute, poignant. Amidst the film strips dangling
around and touching their young faces. Meanwhile the film has finished, the
projector turns uselessly…Down below the screen is blank, the audience
whistles…But SALVATORE hears nothing, neither the whistles nor the useless
whirring of the reels in the projector. All he hears is her breathing, an he
feels is the warmth of her
68 VARIOUS SETTINGS. INT/EXT. DAY
The happiest, most vivid moments SALVATORE and ELENA spend
A country outing. They eat a lavish salad using the flat branches of the
prickly pear for plates.
A chase through an endless field of wheat.
In the projection booth. A cake with seventeen lighted candles.
SALVATORE and ELENA blow them out together. And then a kiss.
69 ROAD AT THE EDGE OF TOWN.EXT. DAY
SALVATORE is driving an old beaten-up Balilla he bought from a
car-wrecker. ELENA sits beside him, having the time of her life. They
roar with laughter. The car jolts, moves by fits and starts, jarred by the
holes in the road, and besides SALVATORE is not such a hot driver. She
You have a great future as a driver.
If they don’t arrest you first!!
That’s nothing to do with it, it’s
the car that’s still being run in…
He has barely finished the last sentence when the car gives a
sudden violent shudder. A sharp report. A cloud of white smoke issues from the
motor. And the Balilla stops dead in its tracks. ELENA and SALVATORE cannot
smother their wild laughter. They embrace.
SO now how do we get home?
The two of them are standing beside the empty road, looking bored, as they have
already been waiting a long time for someone to go by, a car, a wagon. When all
at once a car comes around the bend, heading for town. SALVATORE and ELENA flag
The DRIVER slows down. The back door opens, a MAN gets out. An alarmed and
startled look comes over ELENA’s face that man is her FATHER. She sees him
stride over in a rage.
He has almost reached SALVATORE, who tries lo be polite, to make the best of the
Hello, Dr Mendola…Hem…
ELENA buries her face in her hands, so as not to see…
70 CINEMA PARADISO. INT. EVENING
SALVATORE has a bruise on his cheek and two Band-aids on his face.
He got himself a good thrashing, and then some. The house is jammed,
as on the great occasions. Curiosity is written all over the faces of the
audience. But what they’re seeing is not a film, but an instalment of
Double or Nothing. SALVATORE is standing by a teleprojector which
has been set up in the central aisle of the balcony. It is a machine that
makes it possible to project television show on the screen. ALFREDO is
sitting beside him.
(In a low voice)
Toto, are you pulling my leg or
something? How is it possible to see
this television without film?
Just so, Alfredo. There isn’t any.
And if you buy a television set, you
can watch it at home, without any
Could be…But I don’t like this
business. It smells fishy to me.
ELENA is sitting in one corner of the balcony with her parents. Sitting beside
her FATHER is the owner of the movie house, SPACCAFICO, who thanks him.
(In a low voice)
You see what a bright idea, Dr
Mendola? But without the bank loan
how could I have bought the machine?
If we don’t get organized around
here, in this day and age, we’ll meet
the same end as the Punch and Judy
ELENA is not very interested in the TV show. She sneaks a look at SALVATORE.
From the looks on their faces, it is clear that things are not going very well.
He gives her a nod, as if to say he wants to speak to her and that she should
figure out some way! ELENA leans over to her MOTHER, whispers something into her
7I CINEMA PARADISO. TOILET. INT. EVENING
ELENA’s MOTHER stands waiting in front of the women’s toilet,
gazing at Mike Bongiorno emceeing the TV show in the distance.
Inside the toilet, ELENA is standing on the toilet seat whispering to
SALVATORE, who is standing on the 20ilet seat of the men’s toilet.
Their eyes are barely able to peek over the flush tank which they have
uncovered. ELENA is worried.
Could it be your father doesn’t like
the work I do…That my family’s too
poor…Is that it?
She gives a nod of the head, but only faintly, so as no2 to wound his
vulnerability. SALVATORE sighs.
All right! !
(To Salvatore, in a
For the moment it’s impossible to see
each other…As soon as school is
out, we’re going to go stay with
friends in Tuscany. We’ll be there
all summer…Maybe if you came up,
we could meet in secret…
But we’re opening the outdoor movie
theatre this summer. What will I do
all this time without seeing you?!
I’ll write to you every day. Don’t
worry. I love you. The summer’ll be
over and I’ll be back…
They reach out to kiss each other. Who knows when they’ll be able to see each
ELENA climbs down, pulls the chain and walks off, leaving SALVATORE standing
there on the toilet seat.
Summer has come. A bevy of barefoot children chase after the carts carrying the
carters’ families to the beach to go swimming. SALVATORE, helped by the USHER,
has finished loading the disassembled projector on to a wagon in order to carry
it to the outdoor movie house. The USHER has hung a sign on the Cinema Paradiso
to the effect that ‘Showings to continue at the Imperia Arena’, and now climbs
into the wagon.
The horse moves off slowly and the monotonous clatter of its hoofs reminds
SALVATORE that the summer is going to be long this year, longer than ever. And
he leans on the projector that totters and lurches from the jolting of the
wheels. A cart carrying a cheerful and noisy family pulls up alongside the
wagon. There are the MEN from the slaughter-house. They recognize SALVATORE.
Well, look who’s here!! Cecil B. De
Mille! Hey, Toto!! When are you
coming to shoot another film?!?
And they laugh, with their gaping toothless mouths. SALVATORE doesn’t feel like
joking, not even like answering. He looks away, so as not to see their leers. He
wants to be by himself.
73 BEACH AND IMPERIA ARENA. EXT. DAY
The beach is almost deserted, dotted here and there with groups of bathers. The
carts and horses are scattered in the sand, near the Imperia Arena, where some
WORKMEN are putting on the finishing touches for the new opening. The wagon
arrives and SALVATORE and the USHER unload the projector.
74 BEACH. IMPERIA ARENA. PROJECTION BOOTH. EXT.EVENING
A sultry evening. The jacklights of the octopus fishers twinkle on the
dark horizon. The sound-track of a comic film reverberates over the sea,
the laughter of the audience mingles with the sound of the shallow waves
breaking on the rocks. A group of LITTLE BOYS in a boat pulls away
from shore. They join some more boats standing still in the water, all of
them crammed with LITTLE BOYS all looking in the same direction…
towards the screen of the open-air movie at the water’s edge. There is a
All seats are sold out! Free entrance
and payment on the way out!! Sssssh!!
And they guffaw noisily. Their laughter is echoed by more
laughter, in the distance…
…the laughter of the Arena audience, scattered among the
metal chairs. By dint of laughing, the people in one of the rows
of chairs tip over backwards. Screams, laughs, whistles.
The projection booth has a door at the back with stairs leading
down to the rocks. SALVATORE is sitting on the ground, bare
chested, tired and sticky with sweat. He is reading a letter from
ELENA. He is so engrossed the words can almost be read on his
Salvatore, my darling, here the days
never end. I find your name
everywhere if I read a book, do a
crossword puzzle, thumb through a
newspaper…You’re always before my
eyes. Today I’ve got some rather bad
news. At the end of October we’re
moving to the city where I’ll attend
the University. It’ll be hard to see
each other every day. But don’t
worry, whenever I can get away I’ll
always come running to you, to the
On the Arena screen, with its potted plants and palm trees, a
very funny scene is being shown. The audience again bursts into
wild laughter. And the audience of LITTLE BOYS in the boats also laugh. One
of them, laughing himself to tears, loses his balance and falls
into the water. The others howl with laughter. A voice rises up
out of the carousel of boats.
Fuck me! I’ve caught an octopus! An
75 VARIOUS SETTINGS. INT/EXT. DAY
The August sun is blazing hot. People are forced to stay inside when the sirocco
blows. The streets are empty. And there is a strange silence. Nothing can be
heard except far in the distance, from somewhere in the country, the love song
of some carter…SALVATORE hears it too, stretched out on the floor of his
room, his eyes fixed on the ceiling where flies buzz around nervously. The
MAILMAN comes down the street on his bicycle, rides up to SALVATORE and hands
him a letter…Sitting in the shade of a white wall, SALVATORE reads the
letter. Next to him, the dog that kept him company at night, beneath ELENA’s
window. He gazes up at him as if looking for news of her.
76:ARENA IMPERIA. PROJECTION BOOTH. EXT/INT.EVENING
The Arena is crowded with sun-burnt faces. On screen, scenes from
Ulysses. On a shelf in the projection booth, there is an enormous pack of
letters. SALVATORE is worn out. The waiting has destroyed him. He looks
like a madman. As he winds up one of the parts of the film, he repeats
her name obsessively, under his breath.
Now he is sitting outside on the back steps, a few yards from the
sea. There is a breeze this evening, the waves are rather high and
the boats of ‘gate-crashers’ can be seen out in the water, rolling
fitfully but not dangerously. SALVATORE stretches out, gazes up
at the inky sky and talks to himself, just like a madman,
When will this shitty summer be over?
(Half shutting his eyes)
In a film it’d already be finished…
…Fade-out and cut to a nice
thunderstorm!!! Huh? that’d be
A clap of thunder explodes in the air. Loud, rumbling. SALVATORE’S eyes pop
open. The Arena audience looks up in alarm at the sky…The ‘gate-crashers’ in
the boats also look up and see a streak of lightning ushering in another clap of
thunder. One of those storms is building up that ruins late summer
nights. SALVATORE gives a contented smile as the cloudburst pours down
violently, suddenly… The Arena audience scatters with a howl and scurries
over to the overhanging roofs of the projection booth, to take shelter and to go
on watching the film despite the rain…
The LITTLE BOYS in the boats quickly pull tarpaulins over their
heads…But SALVATORE does not get up. He lets the rain fall on him,
goes on laughing, incredulous and stunned as if a real miracle had
taken place. And as he shuts his eyes and lifts his head up, to
catch more rain on his face, and gives himself up to that marvellous feeling of
joy, a mouth comes to rest passionately on his lips it is ELENA. SALVATORE opens
his eyes in utter amazement, it seems like a vision, another hallucination
created by the rain…Instead no, it is really her!
I got back today. You can’t imagine
the excuses I had to make up to be
SALVATORE’s lips interrupt her. It is an intense, a stupendous kiss. They’ve
probably never been so happy as they are at that moment. They cling to each
other as the rain goes on streaming over their bodies, mingling her hair with
his, binding them ever closer.
77 CINEMA PARADISO. ENTRANCE. EXT. DAY
Autumn has arrived. In the streets, the PEASANTS prepare the barrels
for preserving the grape must. ALFREDO is sitting in front of the Cinema
Paradiso with SPACCAFICO and the USHER. It is a quiet moment, they chat, while
the humming of the projector and the sound track of the film can be heard
through the window of the booth. The MAILMAN stops and hands SPACCAFICO a folded
sheet of paper.
Don Ciccio, this is for Toto. Give it
(And he pedals off on his
What is it?
SPACCAFICO unfolds it, reads it, claps his hands on his head, in alarm.
Holy blood of Judas! Now what am I
going to do??!
78 UNIVERSITY. EXT. DAY
ELENA is waiting near the University. She paces nervously back and
forth. Glances at her watch. He’s late. She looks around in all
directions and sees him at last. He comes running up to her. They
So what’d they say?
The army says that, as a war orphan,
I don’t have to serve in the
military, but nothing can be done.
It’s a bureaucratic error. I have to
leave. Day after tomorrow morning.
They’re sending me to Rome. But
they’ll discharge me ten days later.
He takes her hand, turns to go to a café. ELENA holds back. She has caught sight
of her FATHER’s car approaching. ELENA turns to look and in a faint voice
reveals the reason for her nervousness.
No, Salvatore. You’d better go. It’s
Good, this way we can finally talk.
I’ll convince him this time.
He won’t be convinced, Salvatore. He
has other plans for me.
The son of one of his colleagues.
Don’t act that way. We’ll talk about
it later. Wait for me Thursday at the
Cinema Paradiso. I’ll be coming with
the five o’clock bus.
SALVATORE looks with longing as ELENA drives away with her father.
ELENA gives him a meaningful look through the window. SALVATORE returns the
look, but stands there motionless, with a grim expression, like someone who
knows how to take the treacherous blows of life. The car drives off and with it
ELENA. Their eyes hang on the same thread. The thread of hope and now of fear.
79 CINEMA PARADISO. ENTRANCE. EXT. MORNING
The poster of Il Grido hangs on the billboard outside the theatre.
SPACCAFICO replaces ‘THURSDAY’ with a ‘TODAY’ sticker. The
CHARWOMAN is washing the floor of the lobby. SPACCAFICO shouts
up to SALVATORE, who is in the projectionist’s booth. SPACCAFICIO
says that tomorrow he’ll be leaving and today is his last day on the job,
and he’s sorry.
Toto, this is no film for the common
herd. One day’ll be more than
enough…So tonight, please set up
tomorrow’s film, so the projectionist
who is coming will find it ready.
SPACCAFICO understands SALVATORE’s sadness.
Cheer up, Toto. I’ll be here waiting
for you. No one’s taking your job
away from you. Don’t worry!
80 SQUARE AND PROJECTION BOOTH, CINEMA PARADISO. EXT/INT. DAY
The bus has pulled into the square but among the people getting out
there is no sign of ELENA. SALVATORE stands nervously up in the window of the
projection booth, glances at his watch. It’s already five-thirty and she hasn’t
come. He checks the projector. The first part has just begun and the reel is
full of film.
The first part is now about to finish, the reel is almost empty, and ELENA still
isn’t there. SALVATORE is extremely nervous, worried, mortified by his meeting
with her FATHER.
He sees ELENA’s face pulling away in the car. Thinks back over her
terrible confession. He paces back and forth, as if he were in a prison cell,
thinking up solutions…The stair light finally goes on; there she is SALVATORE
dashes over and down the stairs to meet her. He comes down the final turn of the
spiral staircase and finds himself face to face with ALFREDO, who is slowly
making his way up with the help of his cane. SALVATORE freezes to the spot.
ALFREDO senses his disappointment.
You weren’t expecting me?
No, Alfredo, I was coming to help
You were expecting her? Huh?
(SALVATORE doesn’t answer.
He’s too worried, too
upset. ALFREDO climbs
another step, whispering.)
…It’s a nasty business waiting by
yourself. In company it’s better.
No?…Then I’ll leave.
As usual ALFREDO’S sweetness comforts SALVATORE, indeed suddenly gives him a
bold idea, one that quiets his nervousness. He puts a hand on ALFREDO’S
Alfredo, I need your help!
8I ROAD TO THE CITY. EXT. AFTERNOON
The Balilla speeds as fast as it can down the road to the city, where ELENA s
family has gone to live. SALVATORE drives along in a state of agitation. The
idea of having to leave without seeing ELENA is his obsession. An obsession he
refuses to accept…
82 CINEMA PARADISO.PROJECTION BOOTH.INT.AFTERNOON
The second part has begun, the reel is full. For the first time in many
years, ALFREDO is alone in the booth, sitting in front of the projector,
and he feels helpless. Not only because he’s blind, but also because
there is nothing he can do for SALVATORE. A strange agitation comes over him, as
if he were experiencing the same anxiety troubling his ‘Toto’ at that moment.
Meanwhile, the film roll on and with it, time, minutes…
SALVATORE has already reached the city. He slows down at the bus
terminus. Looks at the people waiting, but she is not there…
He asks several girls in front of the University. But they haven’t seen
He phones from a phone booth. But nobody answers. His self-control
is about to give way to desperation…
84 CINEMA PARADISO.PROJECTION BOOTH.INT.AFTERNOON
On the reel there is less film. Like an hourglass with the sand trickling
85:ELENAS HOUSE IN THE CITY.EXT/INT.AFTERNOON
SALVATORE comes streaking up in front of her house. He screeches to a stop,
dashes out like greased lightning. His nerves are tense, a slight tremor runs
through his whole body. He rings the bell, but nobody answers. A MAN who lives
in the building opens the front door and comes out.
SALVATORE seizes the chance and climbs up to the third floor. He pounds on the
door furiously, almost cracking his knuckles. But all to no avail; there is
nobody at home. He shrieks, panic stricken.
Open up! Open up! Elenaaa!
And in fact, there is somebody inside: ELENA’s MOTHER. She sits there immobile,
without a word.
The pounding on the door reverberates in the room, but she does not budge,
determined to ignore that desperate message.
86:CINEMA PARADISO.PROJECTION BOOTH.INT.AFTERNOON
The reel spins faster. The film is almost ended. By now there is very
87 ROAD TO THE VILLAGE. EXT. SUNDOWN
And SALVATORE is on his way home, defeated. Be drives as fast as he can. Be is
in a terrible state, can’t figure out what’s happened. Can’t explain it. And
that’s what hurts.
88 CINEMA PARADISO. PROJECTION BOOTH. INT. SUNDOWN
The words ‘THE END’ appear on the screen…and the film runs out, leaving the
projector turning uselessly. ALFREDO is alarmed. He can hear that the film is
finished, but doesn’t know where to begin. He gropes around. He’s scared. Like a
little boy calls his mother when he’s lost in a crowd, so old ALFREDO calls
The few people down in the audience start whistling and complaining about the
film they haven’t understood.
Lights! Christ, what a piece of
crap!! We want OUT money back!!!
Others are shouting that they like the film.
89 CINEMA PARADISO. ENTRANCE. EXT. SUNDOWN
The Balilla screeches to a stop in front of the theatre. SALVATORE darts out and
runs to the stairs…
90 CINEMA PARADISO. PROJECTION BOOTH. INT. SUNDOWN
SALVATORE turns the lights on in the theatre and turns off the projector, trying
to calm down ALFREDO, who has got to his feet, frightened.
But where’d you go, Toto?!!
I’m here! Take it easy! Take it easy!
(And he folds him into his
arms, like calming down a
little boy who has had a
nightmare. Be whispers,
still out of breath:)
Sit down, sit down…
(ALFREDO quiets down as
SALVATORE lowers him into
a chair, and asks him the
only question upon which
his last hope depends.)
Did she come?
No, nobody came.
(And he embraces him,
almost as if to comfort
him in his great
For SALVATORE it’s really the end: she’s not coming. Tomorrow he’ll be leaving
without having seen her again.
SALVATORE’S hands remove the photographs of Amedeo Nazzari and of ELENA from the
wall, slip them into one of his pockets.
Now the hands open the metal containers of tomorrow’s film, take .
out the reels to set them up, pick up the receipt – his last before leaving –
and with the same mechanical gesture, hang it on a nail, as usual.
91 ROME. VARIOUS SETTINGS, MILITARY LIFE. EXT/ INT. DAY/NIGHT
A wild frenetic sequence, set to the pace of military life…SALVATORE, in
uniform with close-cropped hair, answers his superior, shouts:
Radio Operator Di Vita Salvatore!
Third Battalion, Ninth Company,
Target practice. SALVATORE fires all the shots in the cartridge, one after the
A SECOND LIEUTENANT barks out a march rhythm in the blazing sun.
One, two, one, two!! Attention! Left
SALVATORE sneaks out of line, goes over and slips a letter into
the mailbox and hurries back to his place.
On one of the public phones in a square of Rome, SALVATORE is phoning ELENA.
Nobody answers. He slams down the receiver, as the line of SOLDIERS waits its
Night-time. A large plastic bag full of water. A thud. SALVATORE wakes up with a
start in a lake of ice water. He lets out a terrified shriek as the others
laugh, protected by the dark.
In the large dormitory, the SERGEANT is handing out the mail. He
throws a pile of letters on SALVATORE’S bunk. They are his letters to ELENA,
stamped ‘ADDRESS UNKNOWN’.
Mess duty. SALVATORE is washing Up, in a sea of water and grease.
He rimes a pan full of tomato sauce with a tap hose. A spurt of red water
splatters him in the face.
A training run. Another letter which SALVATORE drops into the mailbox…
A cold, rainy night. SALVATORE stands stiff as a poker in front of the
Ammunition depot. It is his first guard duty. Soaked to the skin, gazing wide-
eyed into empty space.
Colonel, I was supposed to spend ten
days here and it’s been about a year,
and I haven’t ever gone borne. I’d
like a furlough, at least!
SALVATORE is in the guardhouse. A cold, dark, filthy cell. His nerves start to
give way. He bows his head in despair.
Hospital. SALVATORE is exhausted, run-down. The night-stand is jammed with
medicines. He lies in bed without moving, staring off into empty space, and
repeats obsessively in a low voice, as if talking to himself.
(He has touched the
extreme of suffering, a
young man who has
been denied love and
affection, his rights,
freedom. A NURSE comes
Di Vita Salvatore, get ready, your
discharge has come through.
SALVATORE registers this information with his eyes and nods absently.
92 GIANCALDO. SQUARE AND STREETS. EXT. DAY
The bus disappears around the corner leaving SALVATORE standing there alone. It
is a blazing hot day. The sirocco wind blows the yellow dust in all directions.
The square is empty, the billboard in front of the closed movie house announces
a Western. SALVATORE puts his suitcase on the ground, looks around. Everything
exactly the same, immobile. Only one new feature in the cafe there’s a jukebox
playing ‘Estate’ sung by Milva.
SALVATORE turns towards the Cinema Paradiso. The projectionist is at the
window of the booth, smoking a cigarette. Who knows who he is, where he came
from. A hot flurry of dust. SALVATORE turns and sees a dog leaping around kim,
wagging its tail. It’s the dog that kept him company during his nights beneath
the window. SALVATORE gives a start of joy, drops his suitcase and leans over to
stroke him. Then he hugs him, as if he were an old friend.
93 ALFREDO’S HOUSE. INT. AFTERNOON
SALVATORE goes to see ALFREDO. He is still in bed, has just woken up. He is glad
to hear his ‘Toto’. He feels his forehead, his eyes and cheeks, as if to ‘see’
You ‘re thinner…You can tell
you’ve not been treated well.
(As usual, you can’t hide
anything from ALFREDO.
SALVATORE senses something
different in him that he
can’t figure out, like
same wild restlessness
They tell me you never go out, never
talk to anybody. Why?
Toto, sooner or later there comes a
time when talking or keeping quiet is
the same thing. So it’s better to
(Changing his lone)
It’s hot in here. Toto, take me to
94 BEACH AND WATERFRONT. EXT. AFTERNOON
The sea is ruffled and the air is less sultry, easier to breathe.
SALVATORE and ALFREDO walk slowly along the waterfront. ALFREDO totters
slightly, holds on to SALVATORE, who is telling him something very funny.
At the Christmas party the lieutenant
pinches a girl’s ass. The girl turns
around: it’s the daughter of the
commanding officer. The lieutenant is
scared to death and says: ‘Miss, if
your heart is as hard as what I have
just touched, I’m done for!
And they roar with laughter. They look like two old school buddies telling each
other dirty jokes. They stop beside a low wall. ALFREDO knows that those laughs
are simply a way of uselessly dancing around the countless things that are
troubling SALVATORE. And he breaks the ice, while SALVATORE is still
Did you ever see her again?
(SALVATORE’S laughter dies
away, taken off-guard as
he is. Then he lights a
No. And nobody knows where she is.
It was probably meant to be like
this. Each of us has a star to
follow. So now what are you thinking
It’s a terrible question, and SALVATORE has no answer to it. In fact, would
rather not even talk about it. He changes his tone, as if he hadn’t heard it,
laughs, trying again to ding to the funny jokes he heard during military
Listen to this one…The commander
says to the sergeant: ‘You
remember that windmill that used to
be there?’ ‘Yes, sir, I remember the
mill’s gone but the wind’s still
(And he bursts into
nervous laughter. But this
time ALFREDO remains cold,
unmoved, does not laugh
with him. SALVATORE
gradually falls silent. He
doesn’t know what to say.
For the first time in his
life, he doesn’t know what
goal to aim for, doesn’t
know what to do. The cloud
of smoke wreaths his
nervous face, now he seems
to relax, whispers:)
You remember the story of the soldier
and the princess?
(ALFREDO nods his head.)
Now I understand why the soldier went
away just before the end. That’s
right, just one more night and the
princess would have been his. But
she, also, could not have kept her
promise. And…that would have been
terrible, he would have died from it.
So instead, for ninety-nine nights at
least he had lived with the illusion
that she was there waiting for him…
(This time SALVATORE is
the one to explain
something to ALFREDO. And
ALFREDO realizes how
bitter his story is and,
above all, that the boy
standing there is no
longer a boy…)
Do like the soldier, Toto! Go away!
This land is cursed.
(They are now leaning
against a boat on the
beach. ALFREDO goes on
whispering his words.)
When you’re here every day you feel
like you’re at the center
of the universe, it seems like
nothing ever changes. Then you go
away, one year, two…And when you
come back, everything’s different.
The thread has broken. You don’t
find those you were looking for, your
things no longer exist. Isn’t that
the case?…You’ve got to go away a
long time, for many, many years,
before coming back and finding your
people again, the land where
you were born…But not now, it’s
impossible. Now you’re blinder than I
(Intense words, straight
from the heart, and
SALVATORE is spellbound.
He whispers with a smile:)
Who said that? Gary Cooper, James
Stewart, Henry Fonda? Huh?
(ALFREDO also gives a
No, Toto, nobody said it. I say it!
Life’s not like you saw it in the
movies. Life…is harder.
(He lays his hand on
gives it a hard squeeze.)
Get out! Go back to Rome. You ‘re
young, the world is yours! And I’m
old…I don’t want to hear you talk
any more, I want to hear talk about
SALVATORE gives a shudder that runs through his very soul. The setting sun lies
colorless on the horizon.
95 VARIOUS SETTINGS. EXT/INT. NIGHT
Night. The square is empty. SALVATORE is sitting on the church steps.
His head in his hands. He has to make a decision leave or stay. And why?…
‘What decision will he make?’ is the question that keeps ALFREDO awake, in his
hot dark bedroom…
MARIA, his mother, also can’t get to sleep. She knows, senses, that her son is
on the verge of an important turning-point. But what will he decide? What will
Also LIA, his sister, feels a strange, heavy tension in the air. And
doesn’t sleep. She’s probably wondering where SALVATORE is at that
He’s sitting on the ground. But even if he were to go to bed he wouldn’t
sleep. He rubs his face with his hand. The church bell chimes four a.m…
ALMOST THIRTY YEARS LATER, another distant bell is chiming four a.m. And
SALVATORE is once again wide awake. He is thinking, with his hand on his face,
just like then. And the same decision to make: what to do? Stretched out beside
a sleeping WOMAN, he goes on staring at the window. Outside, the storm has
passed. The long memory has almost faded, only the sound of a train surfaces in
96 GIANCALDO RAILWAY STATION. EXT. DAY
It’s the train that THIRTY YEARS EARLIER had pulled into the station
of his home town before leaving for Rome. SALVATORE hugs his
MOTHER and SISTER. The moment has come to say goodbye to
ALFREDO. The old man is deeply moved. A heart-rending trembling
comes into his husky voice.
Don’t come back any more, don’t think
about us, don’t turn round, don’t
write, don’t give in to nostalgia.
Forget us all. If you can’t hear it
and come back, don’t come looking for
me, I won’t let you into the house,
They clasp each other tightly, as if they knew they wouldn’t be meeting
Thanks for all you’ve done for me.
Whatever you do, love it like you
loved that projection booth of the
Paradiso when you were little…
(The train moves now.
Hands wave in the air,
drawing further and
further away. The PRIEST
has arrived at the last
moment and waves goodbye
from the distance.)
Goodbye, TotooooooO!!! I got here too
late. What a shame!
The figure of ALFREDO and the others can no longer be distinguished. Only a
distant blur at the end of the track.
97 PUNTA RAISI AIRPORT. EXT. DAY
THIRTY YEARS LATER, a plane flies over Sicily. It lands on the
runway char seems to emerge from the sea and flatten out towards the slopes of
the dark mountains. Salvatore’s face appears among the clouds reflected in one
of the plane windows. He has the tense look of the man who suddenly comes home
after the adventure of life has carried him afar, wandering the world, where he
has forgotten everything. From the plane window to another window…
98 SUPERHIGHWAY. INT/EXT. DAY
…the window of the taxi-cab driving SALVATORE to his home town. The scenery
moving by on either side of the road summons up sweet memories. A lot of things
have changed, but the colors are still the same. The yellow running through the
entire landscape is unmistakable. And all those black birds perched in a row on
the guard-rail are crows.
The cab now approaches the outskirts of Giancaldo. But if the sign,
hadn’t been there with the name on it, it could be an entirely different
99 SALVATORE’S MOTHER’S HOUSE. EXT/INT. DAY
The house where SALVATORE’S MOTHER lives is also new, nearer the
The old lady is sitting alone in an armchair in the parlor, knitting a white
sweater. Her hands move very swiftly, almost mechanically.
The hands of a woman who is waiting. The front doorbell rings twice. MARIA stops
short. That is what she has been waiting for. She mumbles in excitement.
It’s Toto…I knew it…
And she scrambles to her feet, dropping her knitting in the chair, one needle
dangling over the edge. She hurries off, forgetting that she still has the ball
of white yarn in her apron pocket. And the yarn runs off the needles and the
knitting comes undone quickly as she moves about the house, goes down the stairs
to the front door.
There the yam stops and MARIA’ s excited voice is heard.
MARIA ‘S VOICE
SALVATORE’S VOICE (Off-screen)
How are you, Mamma?…
The camera now moves, discovering them through the parlor window, hugging each
other outside the front door. Under the curious eyes of an old bored dog.
100 SALVATORE’S MOTHER’S HOUSE. INT. DAY
MARIA is no longer wearing an apron. Mother and son are sitting side
by side at the kitchen table…
Lia’ll be so glad to see you, you’ll
see. And you won’t recognize the
kids any more, they’re grown up by
They’re always writing to me saying
they want to come to Rome!
SALVATORE looks around; It’s a place he’s never seen before, and yet it’s
his mother’s house.)
See how pretty the house is? We did
If it hadn’t been for you!
Come, I have a surprise….
(She takes him by the hand
and leads him out to the
hallway. SALVATORE looks
at her and feels a pang.
She seems smaller, age
withers the body, she is
slightly stooped, her hair
is gathered into a knot at
the back other head.)
You must be tired. If you want to
rest, there’s time before the
No, Mamma, it only takes an hour by
air, you know.
You shouldn’t tell me that now. After
all these years!
(SALVATORE gets the
message, feels guilty.
Thinking about it, it
seems incredible that he
has never come before.
MARIA opens a door, steps
aside to let her son in,
I put all your things in here. Go in,
SALVATORE lakes a few steps, is flabbergasted at the sight of his old room
perfectly reconstructed and preserved. It looks like a museum, the museum of the
past. Despite the bed, the clothes in the cupboard, the books on the shelves, it
is perfectly clear that no one has ever lived in it and never will live in it.
MARIA senses his perturbation, remains standing in the doorway as if to leave
him alone…SALVATORE goes over to the bed, looks around the old 8mm movie
camera, the projector, his documentaries, the bicycle hanging on the wall, the
photographs of his favorite movie stars. But what mostly catches his eye is a
tiny framed photograph: SALVATORE as a little boy and ALFREDO, standing smiling
in front of the Cinema Paradiso. Strange, at that time ALFREDO was younger than
he is now! It’s as if he were standing there before him one last time. That
impressive figure, his good-natured bur firm look, touches his heart. From
ALFREDO’S smiling face to…
101 GIANCALDO. MAIN STREET AND SQUARE. EXT. DAY
…the coffin where his old blind friend rests for ever. The funeral
procession winds its way down the main street. At the intersections, ,
cars stop to let the black hearse pass by. People cross themselves. The old men
remove their hats. Store shutters are lowered. Then, when the procession has
passed by, the cars start up again, the old men put their hats back on, the
shutters are pulled up.
SALVATORE is in the front row with his MOTHER, next to ALFREDO’S WIDOW.
SIGNORA ANNA says in a whisper, her eyes fixed on the coffin.
He would have been happy you came,
Toto. He always talked about you.
Always! Right to the end! He was
terribly fond of you…
(Tears come to her, she is
unable to say any more.
SALVATORE gives her a hug,
deeply touched by her
He left two things for you. Come see
me before you leave.
SALVATORE nods his head. He gazes intensely at the coffin covered with flowers
and is grieved as if he were ashamed never to have come to see the man who had
been like a father to him. But why had he forgotten him? Up in front, leading
the procession, he sees a young PRIEST with an altar boy beside him, and these
figures are also like chisels scraping the rust off his soul and bringing old
feelings to light again.
The procession reaches the square. The dark column stands etched in the dazzling
early-afternoon light. SIGNORA ANNA motions the driver and the procession comes
to a halt. It is ALFREDO’S last farewell to the place where he had spent the
best years of his life the Cinema Paradiso. Everyone turns to look and
SALVATORE also turns, taken by surprise…It has fallen to pieces: doors and
windows boarded shut, crumbling walls, a piece of the sign dangling down, weeds
and mildew in the cracks and on the roof. The square has changed completely, is
unrecognizable. Buildings, stores, sign boards and lines of cars creeping at a
snail’s pace in a deafening chorus of honking horns. And the central square has
turned motorcycles. SALVATORE turns slowly to look behind him, towards the small
crowd, and is entranced by the unexpected sight of faces that he recognizes at
once, despite the many years that have gone by: the MAN AT THE BOX OFFICE, the
USHER who also served as bill-poster, the CHARWOMAN, the CARABINIERE SERGEANT,
and further on behind ROSA and ANGELO, the lovebirds who had met in the movie
house and then got married. They all have white hair. And they too have
recognized him, give little hello nods and gestures. Another face
he seems to recognize: why sure, it’s SPACCAFICO, the owner. How old he’s
become! He also looks up and his eyes meet SALVATORE’S. A hello nod.
SALVATORE makes his way over to him through the crowd. They shake hands
heartily, without a word, both touched. The procession starts up again.
(Under his breath)
How long’s it been shut?
Six years ago this May. No one came
any more. You “know better than me,
Mr. Di Vita, the crisis, television,
videos. By now the movie business is
only a dream. The city’s bought it
now to make a new parking lot. Next
tearing it down…A pity!…
SALVATORE is disconcerted, irritated by that ‘Mr. Di Vita’. Besides, finding
out that the movie house is to be torn down depresses him, after all, it’s a
piece of his life…And all those curious faces staring at him.
But why do you call me ‘Mr. Di Vita’?
It didn’t used to be that way…
Well, it’s hard to call an important
person by his first name. But if it
really matters to you, I’11 call
SALVATORE smiles at that. Meanwhile, the procession has reached the church.
SALVATORE excuses himself and goes over to the hearse. Old SPACCAFICO watches
him go, then says, almost to himself)
Bless you, Toto.
The coffin is unloaded. SALVATORE has asked to be one of the
bearers into the church. As he moves off slowly with that weight
on his shoulder, somebody catches his eye on the other side of the sidewalk. An
old woman, sixty or seventy years old, with a plastic bag in her hand. She
crosses herself quickly. SALVATORE recognizes her she was the one he made love
with for the first time. TERESA, the prostitute. The coffin is carried into the
church, followed by the little procession.
102 SALVATORE’ S MOTHER’S HOUSE. EXT/INT. EVENING
The little house is sunk in the darkness of evening and the ground floor
windows are lit up. The rustling of the sea can be heard. The family is having
supper. The table is set with the finest silver and the company china has been
brought out. LIA is also there with her husband, ALFIO, and their two children.
FILIPPO, fifteen, and SARA, thirteen. The television is on, but the sound has
been turned practically all the way down. SALVATORE’S presence arouses a special
excitement. The children look at their uncle with a certain awe, after all they
don’t really know him.
Uncle, the next time Granny comes to
Rome, I want to come along too. I
want to see what you do when you
Fine. But I warn you, there isn’t
much to see. I sell much more smoke
The CHILDREN laugh. At the sight of them, LIA, ALFIO and MARIA also smile.
Watch out, don’t get too familiar
with those two
(indicating the children)
they’re worse than cannibals. They’ll
Everybody laughs again. Even MARIA laughs a lot. SALVATORE looks at her; he had
never seen her laugh like that, amused, at peace.
You leaving tomorrow, Uncle?
SALVATORE doesn’t know what to say. He feels drunk. It has been a day of violent
upheavals, a series of almost overwhelming emotions and now he knows nothing on
the one hand, he’ d like to stay, let himself drift on the sweet tide of family
life, be completely carried off by the rolling waves of his own past: on the
other, he wishes he had never come. He forces himself to smile again.
I don’t know, Filippo. I don’t
They go on eating, but SALVATORE isn’t very hungry. Re peers at LIA eating out
of the comer of his eye, feels deeply bound to her she has a few white hairs
and light wrinkles line her face.
Then he looks at her husband, ALFIO, he’s going bald but he tries to hide it by
combing over the little hair left. Who knows what their marriage is like, he
wonders. He looks back at LIA, and it’s as if she sensed it, she looks up,
guesses the nature of his thoughts, imagines what he is trying to figure out, a
blush colors her cheeks and she smiles. SALVATORE returns a conniving smile.
The ringing of a phone. SARA starts to get up to go and answer it, hut MARIA
stops her with a glance of the eye.
It must be for you…They’ve been
calling all afternoon. They wanted to
know if you’re leaving this evening
Everyone turns to SALVATORE with questioning looks, making him feel even more
restless and undecided. The phone goes on ringing.
103 CINEMA PARADISO. EXT. DAY .
The TRAFFIC cops are trying to break the front door down with their
shoulders. Once, twice, and at last, the door flies open with a screech,
kicking up a cloud of dust. SALVATORE enters by himself…
104 CINEMA PARADISO. PROJECTION BOOTH. INT. DAY
SALVATORE’S silhouette stands out against the light in the open door. S lowly he
makes his way into the empty theatre. A thick layer of dust lends everything a
gray, rarefied look. The light streaming in from the windows up above teems with
strange mates of dust, like a haze.
Cobwebs hang like long veils from the ceiling. SALVATORE walks down the middle
aisle. The rows of seats are unhinged, what was once the wooden veneer has
warped from the dampness. He looks around as if he Were thumbing through the
album of his memories.
The screen dangles from its frame. The emergency exits are boarded
and nailed shut. Observing the emptiness of the theatre, SALVATORE
has the feeling he can hear the howling, the whistling and voices of the .
audience, as he remembers it. But only for one brief moment, then the silence
returns. A mouse creeps along one wall, stops near a pile of dust. SALVATORE is
attracted by that little gray mass. He goes over as the mouse scampers off,
takes a closer look and recognizes the shape of half a lion’s head covered with
dust. He moves it with his foot, then looks up at the projection booth,
repeating the same gesture of bygone years. But the lion’s head is no longer
there, only the outline of it on the wall, and cobwebs have covered the hales of
the booth, those little square openings that had caused him such long suffering
as a little boy…SALVATORE now climbs up the spiral staircase. Each step kicks
up a little cloud of dust.
The little booth, yellow with fumes, appears before him again. Now it
looks like some big, empty cave. The projector is no longer there, nor
the equipment. Who knows where they junked them?! The only thing left is a clump
of film strips still attached to the wall: trailers, Part One
endings, etc…There he had kissed ELENA for the first time, and
strips of film like those had grazed their faces. Now they are caught up
in the coils of cobwebs. And where the film-winder once stood, the
nails remain with thousands of yellowing receipts. Of all the films
shown at the Cinema Paradiso Palace. And three more boxfuls of
them are on the floor.
And the windows overlooking the square are bolted shut and the glass
broken. SALVATORE peers out of one of the cracks in the window and
sees the village…which is now a city. A different world he no longer
105 CAFÉ IN SQUARE. INT/EXT. DAY
The cafe in the square has been completely renovated. The CASHIER and BARMEN
have young, unfamiliar faces. SALVATORE holds out the receipt with a tip.
A double whisky, please.
Several BOYS are sitting at the comer tables, talking about girls. Others stand
playing ‘war games’, shake around to the obsessive strains of same electronic
A man comes up to SALVATORE and asks for his autograph. Then SALVATORE turns to
the plate-glass window overlooking the main street, where the workers’ club once
was. And like a flash, a shudder freezes him to the spot…. Two steps away
him, through the glass, a stunning vision, which casts him beyond time, chills
his blood: there before him is ELENA! But she is still young, young as she was
then! Sweet, luminous, alluring, exactly the way he saw her the first time at
She is waiting to go across the street with a bunch of books under her
arm…Have the passing years had no effect on her? Or is she an hallucination?
No! It’s a dream! Or is he dead too, like ALFREDO? SALVATORE doesn’t know how to
explain it. And he is suddenly seized by a feeling of panic. His glass drops to
the floor…As the GIRL walks off…
106 GIANCALDO. STREET. EXT. DAY
At the age of fifty-five, SALVATORE feels no scruples about wandering
the streets of his home town, spying from a distance on an eighteen- year-old
girl. There’s nothing he can do about it. He stares at her with the amazement of
someone who discovers that miracles exist. Now he is nearer to her. How lovely
she is! It’s her, no doubt about it! Exactly the same. Except she has a
different hair-do and is wearing different clothes: ELENA didn’t wear slacks.
The GIRL goes up to a parked motorcycle. She removes the padlock and fastens her
books to the rack. SALVATORE is standing there a few steps away, and without
stopping to think, moves a little closer, discreetly, politely.
Excuse me, Miss…
(She turns to look at him,
indifferent, but friendly.
He looks at her wonderful
I’m so sorry, I thought you were
She has already started the motor of her bike. A flip of the accelerator and
off she goes, her hair flying in the wind.
SALVATORE follows her with his eyes until she disappears around the corner.
107 SALVATORE’S MOTHER’S HOUSE. INT. AFTERNOON
The old shots of ELENA getting off the train and walking away, casting a curious
look at the camera…SALVATORE is watching her again, projected on the white
wall of his room. He also watches the other shots of those happy long-gone days
the picnic,. she at the beach, smiling, joyful…And again SALVATORE doesn’t
understand, or doesn’t want to understand. But these scenes could have been shot
yesterday, so identical to ELENA is the girl he saw on the street…And the
wound which he thought had healed years ago, starts bleeding again.
The lingering note of suffering for a romance that had ended without his ever
knowing why, and the endless explanations that had been sifted through by his
young mind, start slipping through his soul again, like those shots
slipping again through an old 8mm projector.
Through the crack of the door, MARIA sees those images on the wall, SALVATORE
rocking his head back and forth slowly, like he used to do as a boy when he
cried. She somehow feels his grief, his bitterness, lowers her eyes and walks
away without a word, as the little shiny rectangle on the wall remains blank,
empty…And SALVATORE sits there gazing at it, as if he saw other scenes which
his camera never set down on film, only his memory.
108 HIGH SCHOOL. STREETS AND LITTLE SQUARE. EXT. DAY
The HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS are coming out after school. Happy young faces. That
GIRL ‘s motorcycle can be seen in a rear-view mirror. SALVATORE is at the wheel
of the car ALFIO has lent him. He has obviously followed that motorcycle before.
He waits with an eagerness he thought he had long lost, a determination to
understand, to get to the bottom of the matter, which frightens him and at the
same time overwhelms him hopelessly.
And here she comes. She unlocks the padlock and prepares to speed off. SALVATORE
starts the motor and follows her a short distance away. The GIRL heads for the
new residential district on the outskirts.
109 SALVATORE’S MOTHER’S HOUSE. INT. DAY
MARIA is setting the table. LIA and her family are eating at her
house today. SALVATORE is sitting again, with a lighted cigarette,
gazing through the window at the shrubs tossing in the wind and the
rolling sea. The air whistling through the cracks of the windows lends a
heaviness to the silence, like the troubled look on his face. MARIA glances at
What are you thinking, Toto?
SALVATORE looks at the old woman’s lovely face, a faint smile. on his lips.
There was always something like an unspoken rule between them, the rule of
silence, of unconfessed complicity. And now he feels that rule has to be broken.
He speaks quietly, as if to curb the tumult of his feelings of guilt.
I was thinking…that we’ve never
talked, Mamma…When I was little I
saw you as if you were already old.
That’s probably true with all kids…
(She nods, then sits down
before him. He strokes her
old, skinny, heavily
But only now do I realize you were
young, you were beautiful, had a
whole life before you. But how…
…how could you have lived alone
all that time, with no one to look
after you? You could have
remarried…Why not? At the time I
probably wouldn’t have understood,
but I would have later…
MARIA doesn’t answer, but she is not troubled. An inner peace lends her a sweet,
quiet expression. Then she too agrees to break the rule of silence.
I never had anybody. If that’s what
you think…I didn’t want anybody. I
always remained faithful. First to
your father, then to you, to Lia.
(With a shrug)
That’s the way I’m made, there’s
nothing I can do about it.
And you’re like me, you’re too honest
and too attached to the things you
love…But I don’t know if that’s a
good thing. Faithfulness is a bad
business. If you’re faithful, you’re
(SALVATORE is immersed in
the profound truth of
those words. And he says
nothing. The silence is
broken by the ringing of
the phone. A menacing
sound, which SALVATORE
cannot bear. He knows they
are calling him from Rome,
gives a nervous gesture,
stands up and pulls out
the plug. The silence
returns, the whistling of
the wind. MARIA lowers her
It’s my fault! It would have been
better if I hadn’t called you…
SALVATORE sits down again, leaning closer to her. He stubs out his cigarette in
the already overflowing ashtray.
No…It’s nothing to do with you.
It’s just that I was scared of coming
back. Now, after all these years, I
thought I was strong, that I had
forgotten lots of things. Instead, I
find it’s quite the opposite, as if I
had never left. And yet, I look at
Lia and feel as if I didn’t know her,
and you, Mamma…I abandoned you,
ran away like a thief, thought only
of myself, and never gave you
And I never asked for one! You have
nothing to explain. I always thought
that what you did was right, and that
was that. With no beating around the
(Smiling, playing it down)
Only one thing made me suffer:
bolting the door shut before going to
bed at night…
You never used to do that!
She smiles like a little girl who is about to confess the fibs she has told.
No, no…When you used to work at
the movies, I could never get to
sleep at night until you came home.
Then when you arrived, I pretended to
be asleep, but I heard all your
movements. Then when you fell asleep,
I’d get up and bolt the door. Then,
when you left, every time I did it, I
felt as if I had left somebody
outside the door, far away….
(SALVATORE listens to his
MOTHER’S words, surprised
and entranced by the
poetry of her way of
But you were right to leave. You
succeeded in doing what you wanted to
When I call you, a different, woman
always answers. I pretend I know them
so they won’t have to go through the
embarrassment of introducing
I’m sure they take me for a crazy old
woman. But so far I’ve never heard
one voice that really loves you…I
would have known. And yet, I’d like
to see you…settled down…fall in
(Gazing into his eyes)
But your life’s there. Here there are
nothing but ghosts, Toto! Let it go.
She has said this with a subtle allusiveness in her voice. And SALVATORE
realizes she has always known everything. But he doesn’t’ answer her.
They look at each other a Long time without speaking. Their rule of conniving
silence has come back into play, as before, forever. It is her expression that
tells him to leave, to take the plane and fly away…
110 SMALL SQUARE AND HOUSE. INT/EXT. EVENING
But SALVATORE has not taken his MOTHER’S advice. Re has not left. Something
holds him there still, leads him to go on looking.
The GIRL’S motorcycle is parked in the courtyard beyond the gate of a small
house. He is studying it from inside the car parked in a corner of the small
square, near a café. Re has been there some while, but is not nervous, waits
there with determination…
Several windows in the house are lit, but no one can be seen through
the curtains. Nothing but shadows pass by every now and then. Now the light in
one of the windows goes out, and the light on the stair goes on. The front door
opens and the GIRL comes out with a tall, sturdy- looking, elegantly dressed
GENTLEMAN around fifty.
They converse bur are too far away for their voices to be heard. SALVATORE
watches them come out the gate and climb into a car. They look like father and
daughter. The car now drives off and passes right by him. A gleam of light,
the reflection from the headlights, falls on the GENTLEMAN’S face. He recognizes
him at once, from the birthmark on his temple…
His eyes flash, he’s afraid he’s understood. And now the craze to get to the
bottom of it all gnaws away at him. There is no turning back.
111 CAFÉ. AND SMALL SQUARE. INT/EXT. EVENING
SALVATORE’S hands rifle through a phone directory. He is in the cafe, on the
other side of the glass door leading to the little square. His finger
runs down the column of names…
His last name was Lo Meo, Vincenzo.
He has already put the token into the slot and dials the number, looking at the
two lit upstairs windows of that house, where the mystery of his life may be
hiding. SALVATORE hears the first ring, his heart in his throat…A shadow
appears in one of the windows. And a voice answers.
VOICE ON TELEPHONE
(It’s a woman’s voice.
SALVATORE shuts his eyes,
is about to speak, but the
lump in his throat
VOICE ON TELEPHONE
He still hesitates, can’ t get a word out, as if he had lost his voice or
didn’t know what to say. He hangs up. The shadow at the window also hangs up,
SALVATORE is at a loss, sits down at one of the rabies near the
phone in the almost empty cafe. At the far end, a group of five people watching
You want something?
And he turns back to the television. SALVATORE lights a cigarette. He is
uncertain. Once again he has to lake an important decision redial the number
and seek a face behind that shadow? Or forget the whole thing, the GIRL, BOCCIA,
the shadow, and go away? Yes, best go away. He gets up and leaves. He can be
seen through the window turning the comer. A pack of cigarettes and a lighter
lie on the table, he has forgotten them. And the lighted cigarette bums down in
the ashtray. A few moments have gone by. Footsteps, and a hand picks up the
lighter and the cigarettes. It is SALVATORE who now, on a sudden urge, slips
another token into the slot. The shadow reappears at the window. The same voice
VOICE ON TELEPHONE
Hello, who’s speaking?
SALVATORE answers at last, keeping his eyes shut, whispering:
I’d like to speak to Signora Elena…
VOICE ON TELEPHONE
Speaking. Who is it, please?
SALVATORE feels a terrible pang, continues:
Silence, charged with tension. Then the voice continues weakly, as if puzzled.
VOICE ON TELEPHONE
He runs his hand over his forehead, his eyes, as if to soothe the turmoil he
Di Vita. Salvatore Di Vita. Do you
(Another pause chilly,
heavy. SALVATORE opens his
eyes, looks at the window.
Her shadow is motionless,
as if cut out of
Elena, I’m here, in the bar, across
the street from your house.
The shadow moves slowly, a hand pulls aside the curtain. It’s a moment of heart-
rending emotion…She appears. And they see each other from a distance, after
thirty years, each of them with a phone receiver to their ear. But she is
somewhat in the dark, against the light, it’s impossible to make out her
features. Her voice gives a sudden start, instantly controlled.
VOICE ON TELEPHONE
Certainly, I remember…
SALVATORE’S eyes glisten, try to pierce the distance and the darkness to get a
better look, but in vain.
Elena. I’d like to see you…Let’s
ELENA lets the curtain drop and goes back to being a shadow. She whispers the
VOICE ON TELEPHONE
It’s been so long. Why should we
meet? What good would it do?
Please, don’t say no.. .
But her voice is firm, unshakeable, even if quivering with emotion.
VOICE ON TELEPHONE
I’m old, Salvatore. And you too. It’s
best not to meet. Goodbye.
The shadow hangs up, disappears. The light goes off.
112 DIFFERENT SETTINGS. INT/EXT. EVENING
The wind is stronger now, the streets and the square are empty. SALVATORE
is at the wheel of the car, driving aimlessly around the town. He has
rediscovered the woman who conditioned his whole life and they hadn’t had the
courage to meet. An obsessive musical heat, fraught with rage, pours out of the
113 SALVATORE’S MOTHER’S HOUSE. INT. EVENING
A phone ringing drowns out the sound of the television and the wind
whistling outside. In the half-darkened room, MARIA picks up the receiver…
No one answers, but she can sense the presence of someone who now hangs up.
MARIA is alarmed. Who could it be at this hour? And where is Toto?
114 SEAFRONT AND PIER. EXT/INT. CAR. EVENING
SALVATORE stands motionless on the pier, facing the storm-tossed sea. He feels
relieved by the roar of the waves that dispels his bitter thoughts, blurs them,
but does not wipe out the look of suffering in his eyes. A flashing light seems
to approach behind his back. SALVATORE turns and is blinded by the headlights of
a car parked at the beginning of the pier. The splattering waves lend the scene
a hazy cast and diffuse the glare of the flashing headlights. Now the lights
move towards him. And SALVATORE also lakes a few timid steps forward…
They are close. The car has almost stopped. But it is impossible to make out the
person at the wheel who now reaches over to open the other door. A voice can be
barely heard over the raging sea. It is ELENA’s voice.
SALVATORE approaches, accepting the invitation, enters the car and shuts the
door. The headlights go off and the car remains there suspended between the open
sea and the harbor with its rocking boats. Inside the car, not a word. Two dark
figures gaze at each other, unintelligible, as if the night were trying to
further delay that meeting. The glowing reflection of a wave higher than the
others now lights up their faces. ELENA was right, they are no longer the faces
of teenagers, but of people on in years who study each other, searching for a
truth. The howling of the wind and the crashing of the waves are louder, but
ELENA and SALVATORE /rear nothing, sit glued to their seats, fixed in the
endless gaze that envelops them. He is the first to break the silence in a faint
How’d you know I’d be here?
ELENA I don’t know how many years have gone by, but some things about you I do
remember. There weren’t many, places you could have gone. I looked around…
SALVATORE turns on the light of the rear-view mirror. Finally
they can see better. They look at each other a little ill at ease,
making the inevitable comparisons with the memory of their young faces.
SALVATORE carefully observes her graying hair, her blue eyes lined
with wrinkles, the somewhat faded beauty mark on her lip.
You’re still beautiful…
Don’t be silly…I’m old.
(She looks down troubled
by the way he has of
gazing into her eyes,
speaks almost mumbling her
Don’t look at me like that, please.
(And she switches off the
light. But this time it is
less dark, things can be
Why’d you come back?
Alfredo died. Do you remember him?
Of course I remember him. I’m sorry.
You were terribly fond of him.
A moment of silence. It’s hard to find something to say.
I saw your daughter. She’s beautiful!
Who knows how many Salvatores
must be running after her…
One or two. Bur there’re not all that
(SALVATORE also smiles,
but a puzzled smile as if
what she has said had
thrown him off-guard.)
I’ve got a son, too…he’s older.
And you, do you have children?
No. And I’m not married.
(ELENA sits there in
silence. A veil of sadness
clouds her eyes.
Are you happy?
All things considered, yes. Even if
it wasn’t what I dreamt of then…
Again SALVATORE is thrown off-guard, as if the round key of
his enquiry had met with only square locks. She continues.
My husband…you know him.
Sure, sure! Boccia…
(With a bitter smile)
What’s he do?
Politics. He’s the district
representative. We met at the
University in Pisa.
Then instinctively, in a shy voice, SALVATORE asks the question
that he probably wouldn’t have asked a moment later.
And…how come you never married
that guy from Tuscany?
The white foam of the waves splashes up over the wall of the pier, dashing
against the car windows. The shadow of the trickling water is superimposed on
the agony of their faces. ELENA hides her embarrassment beneath a faint but
I didn’t want to…I had to fight
tooth and nail. But in the end I
(SALVATORE is unable to
smile. It’s as if the void
were growing and swelling
within. Thunder and
lightning shatter the
roaring of the wind and
sea, hut it does not rain.
Now her smile Jades away.)
At that time…I was waiting for
There is no resentment in her words. She has said them fondly. With the serenity
of someone who has suffered greatly and then found a strong convincing way of
suffering no more. For SALVATORE, it’s as if one of those thunderbolts had
pierced his heart. He leans over, gazing into her shining eyes.
But I’ve never forgotten you, Elena!
Nor have I. Even though you
(SALVATORE is staggered,
feels as if he were
plunging into the void.
What she has said strikes
him as grotesque. ELENA
strokes his hair, as if to
restrain his sinking
heart, gives a sweet
But what’s the point of talking about
it? We risk being pathetic and
(And she tries to change
You still live in Rome?
But SALVATORE ignores the question. He doesn’t want to change the subject.
He feels that everything is crumbling inside him, the alibis and excuses he had
had to give himself in order to accept the end of their romance. And instead,
now the tables seem to have completely turned. Without realizing, he shouts
desperately, staring wildly at her and shaking her by the
What do you mean, you were waiting
for me?! What are you saying?
(He controls himself at
once, continues, breathing
The last time we saw each other, we
made a date to meet at the Cinema
Paradiso. You remember? And you
didn’t come, you disappeared without
leaving a trace, nothing! I’ll tell
you how many years have gone by: more
Quiet rears stream down Elena’s face, glisten with the reflections of the
lightning and the waves.
I kept that date.
(SALVATORE laughs at the
absurdity of it. A
laugh, which slowly melts
away as she goes on to
But I was late…
(Tears continue to stream
out of her blue eyes, but
she tells her story in a
I had a fight with my family. I tried
to convince them again that they
couldn’t separate us. But it was
futile. They had decided to leave
Sicily once and for all. Which is
what we did. I didn’t know what to do
any more, what to say. And I said
yes, I’d do whatever they wanted. In
return, my father promised to let me
see you one last time, to say
goodbye. But I hoped that by seeing
each other we could take advantage of
it and make a decision…I thought
we would run away together.
(She holds back her sobs.
Dries her tears with the
back of her hand, and
My father drove me to the movie
theatre. But you weren’t in the
projection booth. Only Alfredo…
Her voice continues over the scene of same thirty years before…
115 CINEMA PARADISO. PROJECTION BOOTH. INT. AFTERNOON Flashback.
And I didn’t have time to wait for
you to comeback…
From the bottom of the spiral staircase, ELENA’S FATHER is waiting nervously,
yells up at the projection booth.
ELENA’ S FATHER
Elena! Hurry up!!
All right, Daddy!…
In the projection booth, ALFREDO is sitting on a stool, near the
projector. Seen from the rear, the YOUNG ELENA is leaning over
beside him, she is excited, her eyes are red and swollen with tears.
So I told Alfredo how things stood
and fiat I was leaving the same
evening, and I asked him to tell you
everything. He was very kind, he
listened carefully, then…
ALFREDO answers YOUNG ELENA, stroking her hair.
Listen carefully to what I have to
say. If you want me to tell Toto what
you’ve told me, I will. But if you
want my advice, forget it. It’s
better for both of you if you don’t
see each other…
(YOUNG ELENA gives a start
of resentment, listens
Dear girl, fire always turns into
ashes! Even the deepest love ends
sooner or later. And after that other
loves appear, lots of them. Toto, he
can’t understand fiat now. If I tell
him he won’t believe it, he’ d be
capable of killing me…But you can
understand, you’ve got to
understand…Do it for him!
116 WATERFRONT. INT. CAR. EVENING
SALVATORE sits there without moving, pale as a sheet, looks as if he had
grown even older. As if the whole world has fallen in on him. For ELENA, it was
a painful but liberating story. She dries her last tears.
It’s the first time I’ve had to
chance to tell the story. I never
mentioned it to anybody.
(In a daze)
Alfredo, damn him! He cast his spell
on you too!
I told him I’d take his advice. But
before I went away I left you that
(SALVATORE gives her a
quick look, a questioning
look. He listens.)
I was on my way down the stairs…
(Her voice continues, laid
117 CINEMA PARADISO. PROJECTION BOOTH. INT. AFTERNOON Flashback
ELENA has already said goodbye to ALFREDO, is on her way down the stairs, but
ELENA’ S VOICE
I thought Alfredo couldn’t see me. So
I snuck back up…
(She tip-toes back without
making any noise. Goes
over to the film-winder.
Takes out a pen, looks for
a scrap of paper, but
doesn’t see any. Her eyes
fall on the film receipts
hanging on the nail. She
tears off the top one,
turns it over and
scribbles a message on the
I wrote you where you could find me,
and that I’d wait for you.
She hangs the scrap of paper back on the nail, well in sight. She creeps out,
glancing at ALFREDO, who hasn’t noticed a thing.
118 WATERFRONT. EXT/INT. CAR. EVENING
ELENA finishes telling her story. She heaves a Jeep sigh.
But you disappeared all the same.
There is a haunted look in SALVATORE’s eyes, he is searching his memory for
something he can’t find, then suddenly sees, as if in a dream…his hand thirty
years before going through the routine gesture of hanging a receipt on the nail,
over the others, mechanically, without even looking…and he shuts his eyes as
if fearing the truth. Her last words have wounded him. He shakes his head, then
in a faint voice:
Oh, how I looked for you, Elena!
You’ll never know. I wrote,
telephoned, nothing. Nobody ever
answered. But I dreamt of you for
years! That’s why I went away…and
never came back here.
(And his anguish breaks
free, dissolving into
quiet, almost childish
tears. ELENA is startled
by his reaction. She
passionately. They embrace
and remain like that, she
with her face buried in
his shoulder, he leaning
on hers with his tear-
Even as the years passed, in all the
women I met, I was only looking for
you. I had success it’s true, but
there was always something missing…
(She is deeply moved, goes
on caressing him gently
until he calms down. The
car windows are steamed
up. The sea, the harbor,
the waves have
remains but the sound of
the storm. SALVATORE takes
her face between his
hands. They gaze at each
other, their faces
practically touching. He
I’d never have imagined that all this
had to end because of the man who was
like a father to me. A crazy lunatic!
(She gives a faint smile.)
He wasn’t crazy. In the beginning I
was upset. I think I really hated
him. But then, with time, I
understood what he said…and your
SALVATORE whispers one last dreadful revelation. And it’s as if he had got a
terrible weight off his chest.
But I never saw that note!
(He squints, as if to
stress the absurdity of
I must have covered it with my hand,
without realizing it, that’s the only
(But strangely enough,
ELENA is not surprised.)
What difference does it make to find
an explanation? That’s the way it
went. But Alfredo didn’t betray you,
he was the only one who really
understood you. Salvatore, if you had
chosen to be with me, you’d have
never made your films. And that would
have been a pity! Because they’re
wonderful, I’ve seen them all.
(Her eyes glitter with
joy, then she smiles,
But you shouldn’t have gone and
changed your name. You should have
kept your own.
Tears stream down Salvatore’s cheeks. He gives her a look of longing, of
ELENA embraces him. They kiss with heartrending tenderness, with the same
passion of their first kiss amidst the strips of film brushing their faces, so
many years ago. And they make love, clasped in the cramped quarters of the car,
like two teenagers. Passionate kisses, embraces, deep sighs. Their hair
damp with sweat, their hands clasping, their fingers interweaving. Then the
frenzy subsides into a deep, tumultuous pleasure, of immense loving and immense
grief…As outside the wind and the waves go on rating around that car which
seems suspended in empty space.)
119 ALFREDO’S WIDOW’S HOUSE. INT. DAY
SIGNORA ANNA’S hands place an old wooden stool and a rusty round
metal can on the table.
These are the things he left to
SALVATORE is sitting by the table. He has finished the cup of coffee SIGNORA
ANNA has prepared for him. He picks up the stool, recognizes it at once: it’s
the one ALFREDO had made for him as a little boy so he could climb up and put
the reels on the projector.
When they showed your films on
television, he was happy. He’d plop
himself down there and all his
ailments were forgotten. He knew all
the words by heart, every one, and
I’d describe what was going on. And
when the papers talked about
you, I had to read them two or three
SALVATORE examines the can, wonders what it can be. He opens it: inside is a
reel of film, wrapped in a plastic bag, well preserved. Those objects bring a
pang to his heart, and the things that ANNA said, but he feels disappointed, as
if he expected to find something else.
Did he ever think of meeting me?
No, never! One time your mother said
that if he wanted, you’d have surely
come. He got furious and said ‘No,
Toto mustn’t come back to Giancaldo,
never!!’ He didn’t say it to be mean.
He was a decent man. Who knows what
he could have been thinking? Towards
the end he’d say such strange things.
And a moment before he shut his eyes,
he told your mother not to let you
120 CINEMA PARADISO. PROJECTION BOOTH. INT. DAY
A cloud of yellowed scraps of paper flutters into the air and as it falls slowly
to the ground another handful is flung up. SALVATORE is in the projection booth,
looking through the countless yellowed receipts, stuffed away in boxes. He looks
at them one by one, then throws them into the air. A desperate search, almost a
defiance of the passing of time. He continues with greater determination, flings
piles of receipts into the air, glances at a few dates, a film title, tries to
discover the oldest dates at the bottom. He moves swiftly, his hands plunge in,
then fling up a nimbus of paper and dust. But to no avail…He stops, short of
breath. His eyes go over to the nails in the wall, where other stacks of
receipts are hanging. He gets up and goes to look at them, thumbs ” it through
them hastily, in anger…
He yanks off two or three packs, which come off, nail and all. Only then does he
notice that at the bottom of those blocks of yellowed paper, there are same more
sheets, much older, almost brown. His eyes concentrate on the mildewed scraps of
paper. He leans over, picks themup and goes through them one by one, delicately,
because they crumble in his fingers…And then all of a sudden, some film
he recognizes from that time. He goes on thumbing through them, and all at once
an astonished look appears on his face in his hands is a receipt that has been
turned over. It’s the one! The message scribbled on it can still be seen. He
Salvatore, forgive me. I’ll explain
later what happened. Not finding you
here was terrible. Unfortunately,
this evening, my mother and I are
leaving for Tuscany. We’re moving
there. But you’ re the only one I
love, I’ll never be with anybody
else, I promise. Here’s the address
of a girlfriend of mine where you
can write to me. Don’t abandon me.
Love and kisses, Elena.
He clasps the scrap of paper, and his brimming eyes darken with regret.
121 CAFÉ~ IN SQUARE AND ELENA’S HOUSE. INT/EXT. DAY
ELENA stands near the window overlooking the little square, listening on the
phone to SALVATORE’S voice. She can see him through the transparent curtain
speaking on the phone down below in the café.
When are you leaving?
SALVATORE opens his eyes, tosses away his cigarette.
This afternoon. Elena, in the future
maybe we could…
ELENA interrupts him, speaks softly, tenderly.
No, Salvatore…there is no future.
There’s only the past. Even meeting
last night was nothing but a dream, a
We never did it when we were kids,
(Down in the cafe,
SALVATORE nods his head
Now that it’s happened, I don’t think
there could have been a better
(It’s farewell. SALVATORE
glances one last time at
I’ll never agree with you. Never,
122 CINEMA PARADISO. EXT. DAY
The square, unusually empty. There is no one, and no cars and motorcycles are
parked in the middle. The stores are shut. And there is an unreal silence. The
houses on the two streets on either side of the theatre are covered by enormous
pieces of gray canvas.
Only now does the camera discover in the distance, a crowd of curious onlookers
waiting in front of the movie house, kept at a safe distance by firemen and
policemen. Old SPACCAFICO is in the crowd. SALVATORE is also there. Be gazes at
the front of the old movie theatre…
123 CINEMA PARADISO. INT. DAY
The inside of the theatre, completely empty…All of a sudden, a blinding flash
124 SQUARE AND CINEMA PARADISO. EXT. DAY
…a deafening roar rends the air, accompanied by a surge of amazement in the
crowd. And the Cinema Paradiso suddenly collapses, folds inward and disappears
for ever in a gigantic cloud of white smoke that rises into the air, carried by
the wind towards the crowd…
125 ELENA’ S HOUSE. INT. DAY
The echo of the explosion is also heard in ELENA’S house. She is alone.
And the bang distresses her, as if something had burst inside her. From her face
126 SQUARE AND CINEMA PARADISO. EXT. DAY
SALVATORE’s face, stiff, unmoving, his eyes fixed on those falling ruins, on
that season of his life turning into smoke and dust. Enveloped in the white
cloud, SPACCAFICO stands crying in silence.
Mice dart out of the ruins in terror, scamper nervously into the square. A group
of youngsters scream, amused and excited. Among them, ELENA’S DAUGHTER,
smiling… SALVATORE sees her joking with friends and pointing to some boys
chasing the mice across the square, hooting and laughing. As a white-haired OLD
TRAMP, filthy and covered in rags, makes his way through the crowd. There is an
empty look in his eyes and he repeats obsessively in a low voice:
The square’s mine, the square’s mine,
the square’s mine…
SALVATORE recognizes him, it’s the VILLAGE IDIOT, the one who used to close down
the square at night. Be watches him walk off, raving, with nobody even noticing.
The crowd now moves over to the huge empty space where the movie house once
stood. The murmuring voices are drowned out by the deafening roar of an
airplane. From the ruins of the Cinema Paradiso, fade to…
127 ROME. STUDIO VIEWING-ROOM. INT. DAY
…SALVATORE’S hands giving a STUDIO PROJECTIONIST the rusty metal can left him
Please check the splices. As soon as
you’re ready you can start.
OK. Congratulations on your film.
A COLLEAGUE of SALVATORE comes up behind him.
The distributor is opening up the
film earlier. The press conference is
in the afternoon. The actors will
also be there, the producer, just
An ASSISTANT comes up to them.
The official notification of the
award just came out, but we’ve
already received a mountain of
telegrams. Aren’t you happy?
It’s all right. We’ll talk about it
SALVATORE walks off towards the viewing theatre.
SALVATORE is by himself in the small viewing theatre. Now the lights go down.
The beam of light shines out of the little square hole of the projection booth
and the screen lights up. A number trailer goes by and then SALVATORE sees the
A start of intense amazement and joy suddenly runs through him, astounds him,
delights him. It’s the best piece of film he has ever seen…
It consists of all the kisses ALFREDO cut out of the films and kept for him,
when he was a little boy. They have been spliced together, one , after the
other, at random, same of them even upside down. And yet it looks like a first-
rate editing job.
In rapid sequence the passionate kisses between actors and actresses, names
famous and names unknown in the history of movies. Greta Garbo, Gary Cooper,
Alida Valii, Rudolph Valentino, Ingrid Bergman, Clark Gable, Anna Magnani,
Humphrey Bogart, Marlene Dietrich, Amedeo Nazzari, Luisa Ferida, Vittorio De
Sica, Rita Hayworth, Tyrone Power, Doris Durante, Massimo Gironi, Marta Abba,
Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, Assia Noris…
A whole movie season summed up in a few fragments, a few seconds. A bizarre,
poignant, melancholy parade.
SALVATORE is overwhelmed, moved to tears. It is the most profound act of love he
has ever seen. He laughs as tears shine in his eyes. Up on the screen, another
kiss, the last kiss marking the happy ending of a film. And the age-old words
appear ‘THE END’.