The Frida Cinema

Orange County's Year-Round Film Festival

In Memory of Ennio Morricone, 1928 – 2020

When I heard the news about Ennio Morricone’s death while messaging Frida Cinema Programming Director Trevor Dillon, my evening came to a sudden halt. The friends gathered around the table, the conversation we were having, the pleasant mood I was in—they all dissipated and were replaced by numbness.

Later after everyone had left, I had difficulty sleeping. I plugged in my headphones and queued up “Deborah’s Theme” from Once Upon a Time in America. But the emotions wouldn’t come right away. Switching off my bedroom light, I tried to force myself to sleep. But I sobbed for an extended time, glancing constantly at the clock on my desk, watching the minutes tick closer to when I’d have to get up for a 12-hour workday. Phone in hand, I read the news reports coming from Italy. 

At work the next day I was emotionally distant and sluggish, constantly on the verge of tears forming. I listened to “Playing Love” from The Legend of 1900, my second favorite film, during my lunch break and the tears started to flow again. But I had to wipe them away and clock back into work.

I have noticed many of my friends posting tributes to Morricone and celebrations of his life on social media, mainly by watching the film with their favorite Morricone score. While I hate to jump on that sort of bandwagon, I found myself watching the 170-minute director’s cut of Giuseppe Tornatore’s Cinema Paradiso. When the story reaches the point of Alfredo’s funeral and the pallbearers are seen carrying the coffin, I needed multiple handkerchiefs to get me through the scene. Instead of witnessing Alfredo’s funeral, I felt I was attending Morricone’s; Alfredo was no longer inside the coffin, but Morricone. It was a moment where life imitated art for me.

The Covid-19 pandemic we are currently experiencing worldwide has affected people in different ways. It has personally caused me to feel anhedonia, making it difficult to write or focus on things I enjoy, such as watching movies and reading, for any period of time. Coupled with constantly working two jobs and preparing for an upcoming Ph.D. program and potentially moving to another state, this nearly suffocating state of being caused my emotions to baseline in order to get through each day, one at a time.

Being unable to find the time to properly mourn the passing of my favorite composer, film or otherwise, has been difficult. But I see the light at the end of the tunnel. Playing Morricone’s soundtracks while driving, watching films that contain his musical scores, has helped. I have slowly begun to feel bittersweet emotions. And that’s okay. That’s normal. I welcome them now. Morricone may not be here anymore, but I’ll always have his music. His music will continue to be the soundtrack of every stage of my life.

Rest in peace, Maestro.