themes

Italian Neorealism

Italian Neorealism

The neorealist movement began in Italy at the end of World War II as an urgent response to the political turmoil and desperate economic conditions afflicting the country. Directors such as Roberto Rossellini, Vittorio De Sica, and Luchino Visconti took up cameras to focus on lower-class characters and their concerns, using nonprofessional actors, outdoor shooting, (necessarily) very small budgets, and a realist aesthetic. The best-known examples remain De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves, a critical and popular phenomenon that opened the world’s eyes to this movement, and such key earlier works as Rossellini’s Open City, the first major neorealist production. Other classics of neorealism include De Sica’s Umberto D. and Visconti’s La terra trema, but the tendrils of the movement reach back to De Sica’s The Children Are Watching Us and forward to Rossellini’s The Flowers of St. Francis, as well as to some filmmakers who did their apprenticeships in this school, Michelangelo Antonioni and Federico Fellini—and far beyond.