The main exponents of the neorealist movement were Visconti, Rossellini and De Sica (Hayward, 2000), “The Movement lasted from 1942 to 1952, even though critics credit Roberto Rossellini’s 1945 (Rome Open City) as being the first truly neo-realist film, Luchino Visconti’s Ossessione (1943) was really the herald of the movement, and in fact the scriptwriter of Visconti’s film, Antonio Pietrangeli, coined the term neo-realism in 1943 when talking about Ossessione” (Hayward, 2000 p.202) The majority of films being made in Italy before the movement started came to be known as white telephone films, these were lighthearted melodramas usually laced with fascist propaganda and highly censored by the authorities (Bordwell and Thompson, 1980 p.316), they showed life in Italy in a completely different light to the reality of the time. They showed an Italian society that was happy contented and well structured. There was no real meaning to these melodramas, they just ambled along showing the supposedly easygoing contented life of the Italian people living at the time, often depicting melodramatic conversations of affluent characters talking on the telephone. Which ultimately gave them the label white telephone films. There was never any mention of Mussolini’s travesty, the real society, with the oppression, poverty, desperation and lack of solidarity that was playing out on the city streets.
“The Neorealist filmmakers saw their gritty films as a reaction to the idealized Telefono Bianco style. They compared and contrasted the high-almighty gimmicks of set and studio production, with the devastated beauty of everyday, rigorous human life and suffering, and chose to work on location and with non-professional actors instead”. (Woody Lindsey, 2010).
The neo-realist’s were credited by with being the ultimate downfall of these government propaganda films claiming they didn’t show how the vast majority of people in Italy’s fractured society lived. Films like the Bicycle Thieves (De Sica 1948) were controversial at the time for showing the reality of life for the impoverished Italian people. In the Bicycle Thieves (De Sica 1948) we see how Italian society had been broken down, the economic depression and dehumanization of the people becomes apparent. De Sica does this by using on location shooting showing the rundown cities where the people live. To complement the films he also uses unknown actors for many of the parts. Bruno In the Bicycle thieves (De Sica 1948) was a factory worker; his powerful hands, his almost awkward stature combined with his deep expressionless face, almost force us to empathize with him, dragging us deeper into the characters psyche. This coupled with the documentary style narrative of the film that can be seen as encapsulating the Cinéma vérité technique show us the utter desperation and oppression of the people living in Italy under the Mussolini fascist regime. in complete contrast to the white telephone films it superseded.
So it can be argued that the neorealist movement represented the real people in Italian society, the unemployed, the desperate and the desolate. Like in the majority of the neorealist movements films, most of the characters were emotionally driven. Referring to Bruno in the Bicycle thieves (De Sica 1948). His world was collapsing, his family needed supporting so he went out to find work, having found that work. On condition he had a bicycle he and his wife set out to pawn their belongings to facilitate a bicycle thus allowing him to get the job. As the scene unfolds the cinematography and mise –en – scene catapult us into the bleak reality of their...