This 28-page book is printed in-house and contains a detailed semiological commentary prepared with the general reader, students and teachers in mind. 

For those who would like to use it as a teaching and learning aid in a classroom situation the film has been segmented into twelve sequences of 10 to 15 minutes duration.

Extract

SEQUENCE 1 
AN UNEXPECTED PHONE-CALL 
 (DVD Chapters 1/2/3: 12 mins) 
Let the film roll until Fr Adelfio’s handbell rings for the third time  
 
Films often begin with an action that sets the scene for the plot that follows. The location and some of the 
characters are established. Often the main theme and imagery are introduced as well. Sometimes an enigma 
is presented and the action of the film proceeds to solve that enigma to the satisfaction of the audience. At 
some point in the opening sequence the credits roll. These credit titles end, usually, with the name of the 
Producer and then the Director. In this film the titles end with the name of the film, Nuevo Cinema 
Paradiso/”The New Cinema Paradiso”. The logo’s design unites the bowls, one outside and empty, the other 
inside and full of lemons. Over the evocative musical score on piano and strings by Ennio Morricone, the 
camera has tracked back from the empty bowl on the brightly lit verandah with the sea in the background to 
an interior shot of a bowl full of lemons in a darkened room. The contrasts are notable between outside and 
inside, full and empty, light and dark. A boat has been in the frame on the left, far out to sea and all alone. It 
fades out of view as the full bowl comes into the frame. 
 
We soon find out that the opening action centres around an absent man, Salvatore Di Vita. He has not been 
to Sicily for thirty years. There might be various explanations as to why he has not returned for all that time. 
We expect that the film will enlighten us on the matter. This may be the enigma that is raised at the beginning 
of the film. Solving the enigma may become the motor that will drive the film. 
 
On his first entry into the action of the film Di Vita is photographed driving in a stylish Mercedes car with 
the Victor Emmanuel monument in the background. The camera reprises the back-tracking and symmetrical 
framing of the opening shot of the empty bowl. In this way the mise en scène positions the audience to 
associate the concepts evoked by that scene with Di Vita as he cruises down the Rome thoroughfare. 
 
Di Vita’s apartment looks elegant and stylish. He turns off the light when he enters and moves into a well 
appointed living room. He seems slightly annoyed that another light has to be switched off. A windchime 
sounds as he looks out the window, setting up a motif of bells that will run thought the opening sequences of 
the film and will recur later in the narrative. The chimes are bought into focus, introducing the theme of 
seeing clearly, of getting things into perspective, that will be developed as the narrative progresses. 
Di Vita approaches the bed and the young woman occupying it tells him his mother has called and mistook 
her for someone else. The sound of thunder can be heard as the couple talk of the phone-call. As Di Vita 
turns away to contemplate the unexpected news of Alfredo’s death, the sound of the windchimes is heard 
over the thunder. Lightning flashes and the shadow of the chimes falls over his face like bars. It is a face 
haunted by memories, memories that may have lain hidden for thirty years. 
 
We cut from the darkness of Di Vita’s apartment to another shot of a dark setting with a beam of light shining 
from the top left-hand corner of the frame. The true nature of the setting is only gradually revealed. The 
sound of bells continues over the cut in the music score. We come to realise that we are in a chapel. The 
priest celebrating mass, Fr Adelfio, forgets the Latin formula of words for the consecration because his altar 
server, Totò, has forgotten to ring the hand-bell at the right moment. In the vestry later we learn that he needs 
the sound of the bell to remind him of the words. The bell is associated with memory. Sounds trigger 
memory. The wind-chimes in Di Vita’s apartment become the first detail in a recurring motif in which bells 
are a metaphor for memory.  
 
In this exchange between Fr Adelfio and his altar boy, we find that Totò is not stuck for words when it comes 
to arguing with the priest. We also learn that he comes from a poor background where there is little enough 
to eat and health advice is dispensed by the local vet! Totò asks if he can accompany Fr Adelfio but he 
refuses and ejects him from the vestry. The wind blows open his wardrobe, and a statue of a brown-robed 
monk (St Anthony of Padua, patron saint of lost things?) is exposed. He casts his eyes to heaven with a 
long-suffering look on his face. This is a religious icon. There will be many other icons, religious and 
profane, in this film as it progresses. 
 
We cut to an overhead shot of Fr Adelfio coming through a door. Another icon, a statue of the Virgin this 
time, stands on the left of the screen. For all the world this setting looks look a chapel. It turns out to be, in 
fact, a cinema. The chapel was introduced to us by showing a beam of light cutting through a darkened hall. 
The cinema is introduced as if it were a chapel. Chapel and cinema are presented to us in an ambiguous way. 
At this time in Sicily the local cinema was often run by the parish authorities.  
 
Fr Adelfio calls on Alfredo to align the image on the screen properly. During the Mass he found reason to 
complain that the sound was not right. In this ‘ceremony’ he finds fault with the visuals. Is the word 
ceremony appropriate in this context? The setting is similar to the chapel: there is a priest officiating; he is 
being served (by someone who is not measuring up); there is the important role of the hand-bell in both; 
there are icons present in both, and both are presented as places of light and dark where what is seen and 
what is heard is very important, where the sound and the visuals are inter-dependent. Totò watches on in 
spite of Fr Adelfio’s earlier efforts to get him home. Both he and Alfredo are pleased to see the couple 
onscreen kiss. Not so Fr Adelfio! In this setting the sound of the hand-bell indicates the portion of the film 
that the people of the town shall not see. The sound of the violin seduces Fr Adelfio as he listens but the 
sight of a woman in a high angle shot running towards a man is enough to set him on the alert and another 
kiss sets the bell working furiously again, to the delight of Totò and the chagrin of Alfredo. And on it goes! 
In this opening sequence the importance of sight and sound as agents to memory and components of cinema 
are firmly established.