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Film Appreciation Episode 6: Italian Neorealism.

“Film Appreciation” is back with another episode (this a short one) and this time we’re looking at the Italian Neorealism movement, which lasted roughly from 1942 to 1951. An extremely important and highly influential movement that came after the Second World War, the influences of this movement can still be seen in today’s cinema. This movement unlike The German Expressionism (1919 – 1926) (see Film Appreciation Episode One: The Silent Era Part 1), where filmmakers explored sexuality and emotional uncertainty by looking inside and examining the psychological effects of their environment. Italian Neorealism the filmmakers explored their realities as raw, realistically and objectively as they could.

“Go to the streets, into the barracks, into the train stations; only in this way can Italian cinema be born.” – Leo Longanesi.

Italian Neorealism films were characterized by;

•A visual style that resembled documentaries.

•Deep focus photography was emphasized a lot.

•The films avoided camerawork, lighting and editing that seemed artificial, and they rather went for a “style-less” approach.

•Wide shots and long shots were heavily used.

•They used locations that were often poverty stricken neighbourhoods and country sides, these locations were usually exterior.

•Regular people (non-actors) were cast in lead and supporting roles.

•Children were often main characters.

•The dialogue was more conversational speech and not literal dialogue.

•Thematically the films dealt with everyday life of everyday Italians and the issues they faced.

•The characters issues were usually desperation due to poverty, and defeat.

•The films showed Italy’s moral and economic conditions.

Italian Neorealism was birthed as a movement that would go against trends because at the time Italy had been producing films that were grand in style, showcased a fascist future, featured characters who found resolutions in the end. The films portrayed their desire for an American Dream life (due to the “Golden Age” American films dominating the industry) but that was NOT THE REALITY. The people on the ground didn’t have such lives/aspirations that were being shown in the movies, their realities were much harsher.

After Germany and its allies (Italy included) lost the war, Italian filmmakers started having a very critical view of society. They placed emphasis on creating films that showed the lives and realities of the people, they placed much attention to the issues (social & political) facing the country like the postwar poverty, unemployment and the resistances and its effects. These were subject matters and themes that would have never been allowed in the old regime.

During the war however government film studios were damaged and some were used as military bases, storage units and refugee camps. So after the war filmmakers were forced to go out to the streets and shoot in the natural light, this enabled them to make films that were objective and had a sympathetic eye – Italian Neorealism films never placed moral judgments on the characters actions. The films were experimental and almost “anti-Hollywood” as they showed slice-of-life narratives which were objective and had open endings with unresolved situations that were a much more accurate representation of everyday life.

Italian Neorealism filmmakers showed us the experience of life and not the appearance.

If you’re a film bro (its what cinephiles call themselves these days) then these Italian Neorealism filmmakers will ring a bell; Roberto Rossellini, Federico Fellini, Luchino Visconti, Vittorio De Sica just to name a few.

Here are some Italian Neorealism films that you can watch if this your type of movement;
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