A Handful of Neorealism

1) Neo-realism must be traced back to the cinema of Mussolini-era; to the fundamental fuctional difference between the Italian Fascist Cinema and that of the Nazi Germany. In contrast with Hitler, who believed in cinema as a medium of propaganda, Mussolini believed it firstly as a narrative device. Cinecittà was therefore found on such a basis and Mussolini who sought to functionalize things, minimizing the expenses, led the Italian cinema to project the middle class life which was actually the focal point of the Fascist State in Italy. The films of Mussolini-era were usually studio-made and they insisted on obedience of an external authority; they promoted the values that the State sought and had protagonists from the middle class. What happened to the extremely rich German cinema of the 20s and early 30s dring the Nazi era did not take place in Italy; nonetheless cinema started to gain popularity through melodramas and cheesy comedies. Cinema in Italy, in fact, gained popularity much later in comparison to other European countries.

2) The fall of Mussolini and his “legacy” , a shrunk middle class and a disappointed working class suffocating with debts, led Italy to a peculiar condition. On one hand, despite the victory of the Resistance, the country was under occupation of The Allies. On the other hand, the Italian Resistance was not destined to everlast as, for instance, that of the French. The French cameras turned towards the soldiers who had saveguarded the country from foreign invasion. Nevertheless, Italian cameras tended to face the reality of the society: the reality that couldn’t be sought in studios; it was sought on the streets.

3) Neorealist films were mostly shot in crowded streets and vast open areas with devastated buildings, buses loaded with desperate workers looking for jobs and the poverty that has crashed people. In contrast with realist films made during Mussolini’s time, stars were no more a part of the cast and glorious posters were nowhere to be seen. The actors were usually local people where the films were being shot; as was previously common in Eisensteins’s cinema. It looked as thiugh neorealist filmmakers aimed at a sociologic cinema rather than a political one (as the pre-war cinema.) Instead of driving actors in their role, it would penetrate in the role to find its actors. Such a thing makes neorealism highly aesthetic; being one of the first movements in cinema to embody “Process of Reality” in such a pure manner. Even Eisenstein abandoned such a use after “The Battleship Potemkin” and “Strike” and it was not seen much in the Soviet cinema. Neorealist filmmakers insisted on functional and remarkable presence of children. In most such film, there is a child withouth whom the film would be incomplete.

4) Neorealism often had a tragic concept. Some thinkers believe Nazism and Fascism as a consequence of a moral failure of German and Italian public. Neorealist filmmakers seemingly share this point of view. Shots which are often wide, imposing less focus on characters’ face and their individuality, are efforts to depict their relationship with their lebenswelt and a confirmation to the claim that what happens regards the people.

5) Neorealism, deep inside, is a political project. A return to the society, a particular regard to the lower classes and a representation of the social disappointment through cinema are all as political as they are social. Neorealism is introduced briefly at the beginning of “Germany, Year Zero” where it reads: in order to move to a better condition, the children need hope more than anything.

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