>After German expressionism it would be interesting to hear what
>thinks are Italian Neorealist films.
A hot potato here, as we say in Italian. Unless there is no (more)
debate over the question that it is Visconti's *Ossessione* (1942) and
not Rossellini's *Roma Cittą Aperta* (1945) that marks the beginning of
Neorealism. But is it common knowledge?
My critique of Neorealism as it has been read in terms of Bazin's
theoretical formulations, Rossellini's War Trilogy (*Roma Cittą Aperta*
*Paisą* and *Germania Anno Zero*) and De Sica's post war reconstruction
films (*Sciuscią* *Ladri di Biciclette* and *Umberto D*) has to do with
a number of issues.
1) The status of the image. The claim to a truthful recording of
reality leads to an innocented reading that precipitates the viewer
into a suspension of disbelief which prevents her from recognizing that
what she sees onscreen is a representation of reality mediated by the
cinematic apparatus and not reality itself. The film is
not just "there" to convey universal meaning. Instead, it reflects the
ideology of the filmmaker, who selected these particular images and not
others. The issue of reality is thus predicated upon the cultural
values that inform the individual's perception of reality and which are
historically variable. Vittorio Mussolini declared, upon seeing
Ossessione, that that was not
2) Moral vs. political. The individual emerging from the war is
forgiven for her allegiance with Fascism. The primary concern of post
war reconstruction is the collective effort to eliminate Fascism from
the newly constituted society in the name of a new moral [Fascism is
immoral] emerging from the suffering of the war. This goal is to be
accomplished by the young generation [closing image of children in
Roma]. The fight against Fascism depicted in
Roma -- where all forces are united to fight a common enemy [the
partisans &the priest] becomes problematic during the post war period.
Question: what happens once Fascism is conquered? Once ideological
differences will start surfacing?
The same questions apply to Neorealism as a cinematic movement
embodied in the 1940s work of Rossellini and De Sica. Founded upon a
reaction to the cinema of the past, predicated upon a set of
spontaneous rules, devoid of a theoretical basis, it cannot survive
without a serious interrogation of its modes of production. The only
film which follows the Neorealist aesthetics is Roma Citta
Aperta, born out of the historical/ economic conditions of
the war. Its style is made possible by the lack of facilities which
directors have to work with in a country destroyed by the war:
primitive equipment, improvised modes od production, technical poverty.
Technical question: can Neorealism exist outside the historical
premises where it was born? Ideological question: how are the hopes of
Roma realized in the later films which address
the postwar theme of reconstruction?
lecturer & director of undergraduate studies
film studies program, yale university
53 wall st., #116, new haven, CT 06510
voice mail: 203-432-0152
e-mail: [log in to unmask]
"Ou est donc la verite? De face ou de profil?"
Screen-L is sponsored by the Telecommunication & Film Dept., the
University of Alabama.