Traditions in World Cinema

By Linda Badley; R. Barton Palmer et al. | Go to book overview

2. ITALIAN NEOREALISM
The postwar renaissance of Italian cinema

Peter Bondanella


FROM FASCISM TO NEOREALISM

Until recently, film historians saw an abrupt break between Italian cinema under Fascism (1922–43) and the neorealist brand of cinema that became famous all over the world in the decade immediately following the end of the Second World War. In fact, the Italian neorealist cinema relied upon directors, scriptwriters, directors of photography, actors, set and costume designers, and producers who were all active in the industry during the period of fascist government in Italy. All too many ideological, political and personal interests were served in Italy by pretending that neorealism marked a sharp break with the fascist past. In recent years, the question of the origins of neorealist cinema has become more of an aesthetic and historical issue than a question arousing political passions. As a result, film historians have corrected the view that the development of Italian cinema during the neorealist period was a sharp break with the past, acknowledging the many elements of continuity that connect prewar and postwar Italian cinema. Most importantly, an interest in film realism in both the prewar and postwar Italian cinema provides such continuity.

Unlike Hitler or Stalin, who were his contemporaries, Mussolini did not aim at total control over the content or style of the Italian commercial cinema. For propaganda purposes, Mussolini relied on documentary films and newsreels produced by LUCE, an acronym for L'unione cinematografica educativa. The fascist regime actually viewed Hollywood as its model and saw cinema more as entertainment than as propaganda. Consequently, under Fascism, the industry

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