Initially, the film was considered too long, and massive scenes were cut, removing any and all references to whatever happened to Salvatore's great love, Lina. The original version of the film focused mainly on the young boy, fatherless in post-WWII Sicily, bonding with the childless cinema projectionist, Alfredo. The young Toto grows into the teen-aged Salvatore, who falls in love with the beautiful and unattainable Lina. They are parted. That is the last we see. Salvatore returns to his village many years later to attend the funeral of Alfredo, and the film is told nearly entirely in flashback.
In this version, Salvatore is reunited with his lost love when he returns for the funeral. To think that this entire plot was removed from the film initially is almost unthinkable. There are other parts of the film that could have been edited to keep these additional scenes in. I don't know what the producers, directors or the studio were thinking when they edited a huge part of the movie out.
Well, now the film is complete. Whereas the original version focused mainly on the relationship of Toto and Alfredo, we now see a conclusion to Toto and Lina as well. And, we understand the ending of the film in an entirely, much less sentimental light. Salvatore has spent the bulk of his life mourning his lost love, not returning to his village, and not knowing of Alfredo's hand in the matter. He is facing life-changing decisions, and must ultimately dip into a pool of acceptance and forgiveness. Without the addition of these scenes, the point is lost.
This was an excellent film to begin with, now it is nearly perfect. It is bittersweet and touching, and all the more realistic with the deleted scenes returned. If you own the original version, you must own this version. You will see this film in a completely different light.
I also enjoyed reading everyone's opinion as to whether the original version or the longer one is better. I can't decide myself. But a critical point to make is that THIS DVD contrains both versions (on either side of the DVD). So regardless of which you prefer (and here is the perfect opportunity to find out), it is on this version.
I had only seen the 2 hour version once, so while I loved the movie, I had no real sentimental attachment to that version. In my own personal opinion, once you see the "new" version, you can't go back. It answers the questions left open in the edited version - it's like seeing the original and the perfect sequel all in one.
Anyhow, as one who normally enjoys action films and comedies, this film is a real change of pace for me. But anyone who doesn't love it is completely out of their minds. It sucks you in and makes you an emotional part of it. The story, coupled with an incredible score, takes you away.
It will also take your date away if you choose a special someone to watch it with. The ending montage is fantastic.
I have a DVD collection of about 100 movies, and this one, by far, gets the most playtime. Get it. Best money ever spent on a movie.