The Power of poetry in ‘Il Postino’ by Michael Radford

The film Il postino, directed by Michael Radford, is set on an Italian island in 1952. Mario Ruoppolo, the main character of the film, is a poor fisherman’s son whose life is transformed after he met, the legendary Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, recently, exiled on this remote island in Salina. Mario was predestined to be a fisherman like his father. However, hating to deal with the smell of fishes and living a tedious life, Mario was unsuited to life as a fisherman. Instead, lucky to be among the few literate people on the island, he took on the job to be a postman and his only customer turned to be the famous Pablo Neruda. Later, an unlikely friendship develops between Mario and Pablo Neruda.  Interested in poetry, Mario found in Neruda the providential mentor he needed to fulfill his aspiration of becoming a poet. Although the primary goal of Mario was to woo Beatrice, a beautiful lady he fell in love with; Mario discovered a far more multi-dimensional meaning of poetry. With the help of Pablo Neruda, Mario improves his literacy skills to the point that he attempted later to write his own poems. Mario started to see the world differently. Through poetry, Mario learned that he could achieve self-transformation and also be an instrument of change of his society.

                The first scene of the movie delineates the state of mind of Mario as he looks sadly at a postcard he received from America, the land of all possibilities.  Although, immigrating to this promised land was more a chimera. Later, Mario expressed his existential problems, “I am tired of being a man” (1), using Neruda’s words.  The immature Mario hasn’t yet done anything with his life.  Mario has no more alternative than being a fisherman like his father; a job he hates, but hopefully, he lands a job as a postman.  His first task is to deliver mail to the new resident on the island, Pablo Neruda Mario, a man who fascinated him by his propensity to enchant women through his poetry. A shared love of poetry led to a friendship between the two men. Fed with Neruda’s poetry, Mario, gradually, turned into a more mature and accomplished man; this is conveyed through different but related aspects.

First, Mario deeply improved his knowledge of poetry.  A good illustration is a scene when Mario asked Neruda about metaphors.  Neruda gave him an example of a metaphor: “The sky weeps”. Later, after listening to a poem recited by Neruda at the seashore, Mario reacted by saying: “I can’t explain it. I felt like…like a boat tossing around on those words.” Neruda then told Mario that he had just produced his own metaphor. Mario realized his predisposition to poetry.

Secondly, Poetry helped Mario experience love and sexuality.  When Mario fell in love with Beatrice, he was, first, unable to express his sentiment to her. He, then, used Neruda’s poetry to woo Beatrice. Mario uses metaphoric verses to seduce her and his first poetic declaration to her was: “Your smile spreads across your face like a butterfly” and then, he added: “Your laugh is a sudden silvery wave”.  As Donna Rosa, predicted by saying: “When a man starts to touch you with his words, he’s not far off with his hands”, poetry helped Mario to conquer his “Beatrice” like many poets did before him.

               Mario’s long expedition to self-realization through poetry attained one of his prime when Neruda explained to Mario why he writes poetry. He said: “To help man in his struggle, to write the poetry of the mistreated.” He explained to Mario his fight for the right of the miners in Chile which inspired him his poem Canto General.  Mario learned how poetry could be a catalyst for change in the society. Influenced by Neruda’s engaged poetry, Mario, later, joined the communist cause in reaction against the corruption on the island, represented by the unscrupulous businessman Di Cosimo. Mario learned that the society needs changes in order to assure a better life for everyone; he also believed confidently in his visions and was no more frightened to express his ideas. He, later, lost his life during a communist demonstration, where he was expected to recite a poem he wrote.

The transformation of Mario in Il postino is an illustration of the power of poetry as a catalyst for change. This film is an ultimate proof of how poetry can be inspirational on the highest level and change one’s life forever. Poetry plays a major role in the development of different facets of our lives and provides key elements in humans’ maturation by enhancing their intellectual and reasoning skills. This film is also an answer to one key question concerning the accessibility of poetry. Thus, considering Mario who was barely educated and who succeeded to find the purpose of his life through poetry, I could assert that self-improvement through poetry is accessible to anybody.


Works cited

Il Postino. Dir. Michael Radford. Perf. Philippe Noiret, Massimo Troisi, Maria Grazia Cucinotta. Miramax Films, 1994. DVD

“Il Postino: The Postman.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 16 Feb. 2014. Web. 16 Feb. 2014.



Alexandre Koffi

Entrepreneur, space enthusiast, dreamer, cosmic messenger.

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