Cinema of Italy: The season of neorealism (1943-1955)

During the Second World War, but especially during the last year of the conflict (1943-1945) Italy is witness to inhuman destruction and national mourn.

In this context the neorealist genre was born, an artistic and cultural movement that embraces all forms of art, but in particular cinema. The neorealist cinema has the main focus of showing the real condition of the country: often it’s about the struggle of poor families; actors are usually non-professional and therefore immersed in the daily life; there is a special attention to the language, with a great emphasis on regional dialects; regarding the image itself, the directors (among them Luchino Visconti, Roberto Rossellini, Vittorio De Sica, Giuseppe De Santis, Pietro Germi) insist on not changing the reality, avoiding artificial lighting or filming in studio, giving more attention to the outdoors, with indoor scenes filmed in homes of relatives or friends.

In a more autonomous and refined position, those years see the appearance of Federico Fellini, an author that grew up in the neorealist school but at the same time in search of an esthetic dimension that will allow him to overcome it. Films by Visconti (“Ossessione”, filmed during WWII, “La terra trema” and “Bellissima”), but mostly the war trilogy by Rossellini (“Roma città aperta”, “Paisà” and “Germania Anno Zero”) and the four films by De Sica (“Sciuscià”, “Ladri di biciclette”, “Miracolo a Milano” and “Umberto D.”) obtain many awards at international level.

Subsequently, Roberto Rossellini will experiment with new styles, still from the strand of the neorealist genre, with the famous “Stromboli terra di Dio” (1949), “Europa ’51” (1952) and “Viaggio in Italia” (1953), perfectly fusing documentary with psychological undertones. At the center of these works, the suffering and alienated females portrayed by Ingrid Bergman, in her runaway from Hollywood and new wife of Rossellini. At those times, critics crushed Rossellini’s trilogy except for the Cahiers du cinema, but during the past decades justice has been made for those movies that appear to be very contemporary with our times.

Between 1950 and 1954, Fellini is finally showing his work to the public and the critics with two valuable movies: “Luci del varietà”, and “Lo Sceicco Bianco”, co-directed with Alberto Lattuada. In the same years he releases two remarkable masterpieces, “I Vitelloni” (1953) and “La Strada” (1954).

In spite of the success that the neorealist genre obtained (sometimes more from the critics than the public), its season only lasted a dozen years. With the new found well-being of Italy, the tones of the movies soften up and from the mid 1950 we begin to see a new and successful sub-trend called Neorealismo Rosa (Pink Neorealism), that will become the progenitor of Commedia all’italiana (Italian comedy).