Miracle in Milan – Miracolo a Milano (Vittorio de Sica – 1951)

Take a close look at the this picture. What do you think is happening?

A lot has been written about this neorealist modern fairy tale from Vittorio de Sica – the director of ‘The Bicycle Thief’. If you haven’t seen this masterpiece yet, pick one of your gloomy days (we all have a few) and watch it. This heartwarming film is bound to give you the correct perspectives mixed with a great need to do good.

I picked this photo because it effectively illustrates the irony of our modern rat race after fame and money and the inevitable question of how much enough is enough. This especially rings true in today’s youth worship of entertainment idols. Jake Halpern’s new book Fame Junkies has recently revealed that given a choice of becoming the CEO of a major corporation, the president of Yale or Harvard, a Navy SEAL, a U.S. senator or “the personal assistant to a very famous singer or movie star,” almost half of the surveyed teenagers chose the assistant role. Not even being the celebrity, just carrying his/her suitcases… Scary!

If you haven’t seen the film, that’s ok. All you need to know is that in this scene Toto, a young guy discovers he has a magic dove that can fulfill any wild fantasy his poor shantytown’s friends might have.

The picture shows an anxious crowd formed around Toto (not shown) who makes any wish come true. It’s interesting to see how quickly human desires morph from materialistic objects like a fur coat, a suitcase, or a sewing machine – into physical enhancements; becoming taller, curing stutter or changing skin color, and finally to wanting money and lots of it.

As you can see, some of the folks here are already dressed up with their initial wish – fancy hats and fur coats and are now vehemently competing to receive the highest amount of money. The scene starts with the fellow on the right who just wants 1 million, the bearded guy chimes in with 3 million and then the exchange turns into a contest for who has the longest breathing power to demand as many millions as possible: millione, millione, millione, millione………. illione, lione, MILLONE!

Sadly, I find De Sica’s message relevant even after 56 years. It’s about setting the right priorities, both personally and collectively. We’re all victims to a wide range of human greed: power, status, beauty, lust and much more that muddy up our waters daily. However when all is said and done, we’re all short-term tenants in this world, and it all boils down to simply having the basics necessary to lead a decent life, as the film theme song suggests:

Ci basta una capanna
per vivere e dormir
ci basta un po’ di terra
per vivere e morir
Dateci un po’ di scarpe
le calze e anche il pan
A queste condizioni
crediamo nel doman

All we need is a hut to live in
where we can lay our heads
A plot of earth to toil in
where we can live and die
Give us a pair of shoes
some stockings and also a loaf of bread
In these conditions
we’ll believe in tomorrow

By Shlomi Ron

Visual marketing guy with a penchant for fine Italian cinema.

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