Neorealist Aesthetics on Rome Open City and 8 1/2

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  • Topic: Federico Fellini, Italian neorealism, Roberto Rossellini
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  • Published : January 17, 2013
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Critically evaluate the influences of neorealist aesthetics on Rome, Open City/Rome, città aperta (Rossellini, 1945), and 8 ½ /Otto e mezzo (Fellini, 1963).

Introduction
To critically evaluate the influences of neorealist aesthetics on Rome, Open City (1945) and 8½ (1963) I believe there are several measure I have to take. First of all, I believe it is essential to get a clear understanding of Italian neorealism and the common aesthetics of neorealist films. Once I have that established it will enable me to critically evaluate the influences of neorealist aesthetics on Rome, Open City and afterwards, 8½, drawing them both together in the conclusion. The end of World War II, and Mussolini’s fascist regime in 1945 enabled a national film movement to flourish in Italy. This movement was branded ‘Italian neorealism’, and with its unique aesthetic style and themes it produced, arguably, some of the most influential films ever made. Neorealism was seen to be a perfect way for Italian filmmakers to portray the misery and suffering they, and the entire nation experienced throughout this period of repression. Martha Nochimson describes Italian neorealism as: A strong form of filmic poetry that aims for truth in its stories about the poor and the working class, without using the glamorizing techniques that Hollywood prefers, (that) can only be fully understood within the context of Italian social and political history. Italian neorealism has distinctive stylistic qualities that give it an almost documentary, ‘newsreel’ feel to the films. Neorealists believed this greatly added to the authenticity of each film and depicted life at that time in a more realistic way. Common characteristics of neorealist films are that they are shot on location, use non-professional or relatively unknown, inexperienced actors, have plain and simple mise-en-scene, avoid complex editing, have a straight forward, feely moving documentary style of photography and have a loosely plotted narrative. Martha Nochimson summerises this perfectly in stating that: Neorealists insisted on taking their cameras into real locations, using natural light and sound, and stripping their characters of synthetic enhancements. They frequently experimented with using non-professional and young unknown actors in order to avoid the carefully calculated mannerisms of the star. As well as having a distinctive style, neorealist films also tended to have thematic similarities too. They generally placed emphasis on the contemporary situation, focused on the struggles of the lower class, marginalised population within society and often avoided the conventional Hollywood, ‘happy-ever-after’ endings. Rome, Open City is considered by many to be one of the most influential films ever made, and as a result it firmly put Italian neorealism on the map in world cinema. Due to the production starting virtually immediately after the occupying Germans departed, Peter Brunette described, ‘that the making of the film was carried out in the worst possible conditions’. Because Rome was still recovering from the devastating impact the war had on the city Rossellini had no other choice but to use real locations as the film studios within the area had either been bombed, or were being used as shelter for refugees affected by the destruction of the city. Marcus Millicent points out other obstacles Rossellini faced during the production, he states, ‘the lack of studio space, the absence of sophisticated equipment, and the scarcity of film stock forced Rossellini to adopt the simplicity of means that was responsible for the authentic and uncontrived look of his finished product.’ These conditions, resulting in the need for improvisation, were also true for most films produced during the height of neorealism up until its rapid decline in the early 1950s. However some critics argue that the conditions Rossellini faced have been exaggerated, especially in regards to the poor film stock he was believed to...
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