The aim of this report is to discuss Italian Neorealism (Neorealismo); looking at how the movement played a significant element in European cinema during and after the times of Benito Mussolini’s fascist regime. The report not only looks at how but why Neorealism became a growing phenomenon for filmmakers during its debatable 10 year period, and what implication of messages these Neorealist directors were trying to send out through their films. Backed up by several reliable book sources, the evidence for this report will also highlight the influences Neo-realism has created in modern filmmaking today.
Before the dawn of Neorealism, Italy was under great turmoil in the early 1920s suffering from major economic crisis, bank failures and a collapsing government, which would also mean a collapse in the Italian film industry and the ‘Silent Era’ of cinema (Roberts, 2005). When Benito Mussolini took control as the 40th Prime Minister of Italy in 1922 the revival of Italian cinema would be once again be relived, but this time ruled under the control and guidance by Mussolini and his fascist government (Bondanella, 2001).
It was not until the mid 1930s that the brutish dictator truly recognized the potential power of media, where in 1935 a special funding was given to the production of Italian films which was used to open up film institutions like the ‘Centro Sperimenale di Cinematografia’ (CSC) film school, and ‘Cinecitta’ (Cinema City) studios in 1937 (Ruberto and Wilson, 2007). The development of these institutions sparked the appearance of early sound cinema, specializing in genres such as comedies, melodramas, musicals and historical films, but were all categorized as ‘propaganda’ and ‘white telephone’ films by many critics due to their nature of “concealing exploitation and class struggle” during its period under the fascist regime (Torri, 1976: cited by Reich and Garofalo, 2002).
These films were seen as comfort products that would help satisfy the public’s “escapist tendencies”, particularly during the events of World War II, where they were predominately used as light entertainment to distract citizens from the traumatic and violent experiences (Landy, 2000). The harsh reality of war under fascism was contrasted by the glamour and wealth of what the white telephone films had depicted, which displayed life of opulent upper-class lifestyle but set in ordinarily common settings with ordinarily middle-class characters:
“As a formal iconic feature of Italian films during the 1930’s, the White Telephone was said to have displayed the opulence, monochromatic luminescence, and social privilege of modern, bourgeois settings/characters/dialogue.” (Reich and Garofalo, 2002, p.115)
It was an indirect approach of propaganda created by fascist ideology, where they had used the filming industry as a persuasive tool to captivate their audiences into believing false preconceptions about their home nation (Reich and Garofalo, 2002).
After the fall...