From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Il Postino is a 1994 Italian language film directed by Michael Radford. The film was originally released in the U.S. as The Postman, a straight translation of the Italian title. However, since the release of Kevin Costner's film of the same name, the film has been released on DVD as Il Postino: The Postman, and English-language film critics often refer to the film by its Italian title alone.
The film tells a fictional story in which the real life Chilean poet Pablo Neruda forms a relationship with a simple postman who learns to love poetry. It stars Philippe Noiret, Massimo Troisi and Maria Grazia Cucinotta. The screenplay was adapted by Anna Pavignano, Michael Radford, Furio Scarpelli, Giacomo Scarpelli and Massimo Troisi from the novel Ardiente paciencia by Antonio Skármeta. Skármeta himself had previously adapted his novel for the screen in 1983 as Ardiente paciencia.
Writer/star Massimo Troisi postponed heart surgery so that he could complete the film. The day after filming was completed, he suffered a fatal heart attack.
Whereas the novel and the 1983 film were set in Chile, with Neruda living in his home at Isla Negra around 1970, Il Postino moves the setting to Italy in about 1950. The film is set and was partially filmed on the island of Salina, of the volcanic Aeolian Island chain off the north coast of Sicily. One unfortunate victim of the film's popularity has been Pollara Beach on the island, which has suffered erosion from motorboats and vandalism from tourists since the film was produced.
Mario Ruoppolo is a young man in an insular Italian fishing village where time moves slowly. Since Mario's seasickness doesn't allow him to fish, he is given the job of postman, delivering mail on a bicycle to only a single customer, the famous Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. After a while, the two become good friends. Neruda has been exiled to Italy because of his communist views. In the meantime, Mario meets a beautiful young lady, Beatrice Ruccio, in the village's only cafe. With the help of Neruda, Mario is able to better communicate his love to her through the use of metaphors. The two are later married. The poet Neruda and his wife are allowed to return to Chile. Some months after, Mario makes a recording of village sounds for Neruda. Years after, Neruda comes back to the island as a tourist and finds Beatrice and her son in the same old cafe. Through her, he discovers that Mario had been killed a while back. He was going to read his poetry at a large political gathering in Naples but was killed by police intervention. Beatrice gives Neruda the recordings of village sounds, which also record the sounds of police brutality leading to Mario's death.
In 1994 to promote the movie, Miramax published "The Postman (Il Postino): Music From The Miramax Motion Picture", which besides the film's score, composed by Luis Enríquez Bacalov, includes Neruda's poems recited by Sting, Miranda Richardson, Wesley Snipes, Ralph Fiennes, Ethan Hawke, Rufus Sewell, Glenn Close, Samuel L. Jackson, Andy Garcia, William Dafoe, Madonna, Vincent Perez, and Julia Roberts.
The film won the BAFTA Award for Best Film Not in the English Language. The film's score, composed by Luis Enríquez Bacalov, won the Academy Award for Original Music Score. The film was also nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Massimo Troisi), Best Director, Best Picture and Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium.