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History of the Italian cinema: the Neorealism

roma città apertaThe cultural movement of Neorealism occurred between 1943 (“Ossessione” di L. Visconti) and 1949 (“Riso amaro” by De Santis), but its presence is evident in films until 1952. It was a brief period, however it was extremely influential in modern cinema, not only in Italy, but also world wide. It was a left born movement, but in the 1948 elections presented an opposition to the movement, causing its immediate decline. The new Italian government wanted films that were optimistic, that hid social problems and boosted the morale of the people. Neorealism was considered sad, defeatist, and pessimistic. Because of its success with the public and critical acclaim, it has created a spot for Italian film amongst foreign cinema.

The movement spontaneously arose and did not have a strong set of rules, in other words, the movement was never defined by a written manifesto. De Sica says, “It was not like one day we sat at a table on Via Veneto, Rossellini, Visconti, the others, and I, and said “now we will create neorealism.”

Principal Directors:
Luchino Visconti: “Ossessione” (1943), “La terra trema” (1948), “Bellissima” (1951);
Roberto Rossellini: “Roma, città aperta” (1945), “Paisà” (1946), “Germania anno zero” (1948), “Stromboli terra di Dio” (1949)
Vittorio De Sica:” Sciuscià” (1946), “Ladri di biciclette” (1948), “Miracolo a Milano” (1951), “Umberto D.” (1952);
Giuseppe De Santis: “Caccia tragica” (1946), “Riso Amaro” (1949);
Pietro Germi: “Gioventù perduta” (1947), “In nome della legge” (1948), “Il cammino della speranza” (1950).
Key to De Sica’s work was the screenwriter Cesare Zavattini.

Neorealism was born from a situation contingent upon the choices of intellectuals. After the war, the lack of means to create art was such a large problem that Rossellini, to film Roma citta aperta, had to shift through all the photo shops in Roma to find a color camera and had to use expired film.

Principal Characteristics of Neorealism:

  • Films follow the poor and working class, with long open shots outside. This is because studios were bombed and being lived in by people who were forced out of their homes.
  • They often used non professional actors for small parts and from time to time they were also used for primary roles.
  • One of the principle themes of neorealism was the economic situation and moral of the after war Italians, how they were changed and changing by the war, their feelings, and their miserable life conditions.
  • They had scenes of everyday life: the normal public, workers, the unemployed, mothers, young women, children, and what they do during their daily lives.
  • They used dialect (leading to titles such as “Paisà”, “Sciuscià”).

Post translated by Elisabeth, Kelsey and Sofia. The Italian version is here.

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