Rise of Neo Realist Film in Italy

Topics: Vittorio De Sica, World War II, Bicycle Thieves Pages: 7 (2461 words) Published: December 13, 2005
Account for the rise of neo-realism and consider de Sica's Bicycle Thieves in relation to this cycle of films.

The rise of neo-realism in Italy can be accredited, in large part, to the incredibly chaotic society that inspired its conception. Italy of the 1940's was a country in turmoil, and directors committed to the neo-realist genre of filmmaking were determined to portray the country as such. The vacuum left after the collapse of the fascist film industry allowed directors such as de Sica to champion a new style of film. The years 1945 and 1946 saw the gradual reestablishment of normalcy in Italy after the end of World War II and the civil war against the Nazis and Mussolini's puppet northern republic (Repubblica di Salò) had ceased. For occupied Italy however, there were many battles still to be fought. A host of crises emerged in the immediate post-war period. The vital issues to be tackled included: the purge and replacement of Fascist civil servants; Sicilian separatism; and massive pressure by landless peasants for agrarian reform in the countryside; inflation; the black market and currency devaluation. Great social upheaval proved to be an impetus for innovation and ultimately contributed led to the creation of a mode of expression which could peel away the glossy layer of society, and show life for what it was. This mode of expression would come to be known as neo-realism. (Houston 1968) Today we have a cinema of personal relationships, of private worlds with anti-heroes engaged in splicing together the broken and rough ends of personality, or in pursuing illusions half-recognized as such; an amoral cinema, or one endeavouring to construct its morality. In times when there is great social unrest however there is a far more acute awareness of political and social issues. Such was the case in post-war Italy. Neo-realism, as the artistic expression of a historical period represented an important revolutionary moment of Italian thought: 1

" Neo-realism is the privileged medium for the conveyance of that new way of thinking and seeing reality...that need to analyse ourselves, that necessity to follow man and his vital problems...". ("In Defence of Italian Cinema" Springtime, edited by Overby, pp.215-218.cited in Houston) World War II physically and economically devastated the film industries of the Soviet Union, Japan, and most of the European nations. Italy's early surrender, however, left its facilities relatively intact, enabling the Italian cinema to lead the post-World War II film renaissance with its development of the Neorealist movement. Taking advantage, during the interregnum, of the disarray of the previously Fascist-run film industry, Rossellini brought out two cinematic products of a novel and as yet indefinable theoretical status: Rome, Open City and Paisan. The Italian public was at first under whelmed by their artistic merits: they presented reality, not art. Fortunately, other audiences around the world opined differently, and eventually persuaded Italians that art and realism were far from being mutually exclusive concept. (Houston 1963) Most directors of the immediate post-war period belonged to a generation brought up under the "calligraphic" mandates of the Fascist era: no politics, no violence, no real-life ugliness. They aimed at reaching large masses of people and generally cared little for the exploration of new paths in cinematographic expression or techniques. And they often drew upon pre-existing literary texts whose plots they re-created for the screen with hardly any ambition beyond an illustrative one. By contrast, neo-realism concerned itself with fascism and wars, it refused to sugar coat the devastation and disarray caused by the Second World War: (Houston 1963) Neo-realism was first and foremost a moral statement, whose purpose was to promote a true objectivity, one that would force viewers to abandon the limitations of a...
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