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Begs the question: When is a movie too long?
on February 24, 2003
I became aware of the existence of over 50 minutes of additional scenes in this film in the past two years. The original, pruned version received the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1990. I have owned the video for a decade. Then, last summer, the "new version" was shown in limited release, and a DVD was promised. With the addition of the deleted scenes, an entirely different film is created. Owning this DVD is owning a brand new version of the film's events.
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.