Italian Neorealism By Harvey-Davitt, James
Italian Neorealism is a filmmaking movement associated with a select group of Italian filmmakers in the latter years of, and the years immediately following, World War II, the most popularly regarded being directors Roberto Rossellini, Luchino Visconti, Vittorio de Sica, and Sica’s regular collaborator, the writer Cesare Zavattini. The films they made during this period share an interest in the state of Italian society in the wake of war, and a concern with what shape the reconstruction of that society should take. Benchmark titles of this kind include Ossessione [Obsession] (Luchino Visconti, 1943), Rossellini’s Rome, Open City [Roma, città aperta] (1945) and Paisan (1946), and de Sica’s Bicycle Theives [Ladri di biciclette] (1948). While its proponents often refuted its status as a generic or aesthetic style, the films of Neorealism were pioneering in their use of nonprofessional actors in key roles, their preference for contingency and neglect of classical narrative structure, and for shooting scenes on location in the city streets and country landscapes of war-torn Italy. Besides making some of most significant Italian neorealist films, Zavattini and Rossellini were also two of its most articulate commentators. Both regularly reiterated a desire to contemplate humanity in order to rediscover morality, a reaction to Fascism’s recent manipulation of both. While the great aims of these filmmakers were not matched by their audience reception (as illustrated by their box office returns), their poetic and aesthetic innovations made a lasting impression on the subsequent history of cinema.