Development of Neo Realism

Table of Content

Chart the development of Italian Neo-Realism and discuss its influence on later European and American film-making. Italian neorealism was established in the 1940 and is now a national film movement branded by narratives which are set around the ordinary lives of the poor and the working class. The majority of films within the movement are filmed on location, commonly the use of nonprofessional actors are incorporated to reinforce the realist impression.

Italian Neorealist films mostly portray the everyday struggle of life, and commonly document the lives of Italians living in Italy after World War 2. Italian neorealism became major movement after the release of Roberto Rossellini’s Open City. ‘Roma Citia Aperta (Open City) is widely regarded as the most important film in Italian cinema history’. (Brunette. P,1987,pp. 41). This historic masterpiece sparked off the movement, which despite being short lived influenced many contemporary directors film making practices.

This essay could be plagiarized. Get your custom essay
“Dirty Pretty Things” Acts of Desperation: The State of Being Desperate
128 writers

ready to help you now

Get original paper

Without paying upfront

Fascism emerged in Italy in 1922, this ensured all films were hi jacked by propaganda. In1926 the fascist Italian government set up the Italian film societies this resulted in directors receiving funding for films from the government. In order to receive maximum funding for filming practices, film makers made an increasing amount of propaganda films . This process successfully continued and in 1935 the Centro Sperimentale was opened. The Centro Sperimentale was a government sponsored films school which allowed aspiring directors and film makers alike to experiment all of their skills.

The intentions of the government however were to train all of these aspiring films makers, to an extent where reeling off propaganda films were an effortless process. Ensuring these aspiring film makers would only channel their energy in to propaganda films, the Italian fascists banned the screening of any Hollywood movie in 1938. They also believed that Hollywood movies could influence the Italian people to think twice about democracy. This was carried on for a total of seven years then died along with fascism. Within the Italian industry a sharp divide emerged between the exhibitors, who made common cause with the Americans in their eagerness to fill the cinemas with the Hollywood films of which the public had been deprived during the war. ’(Cook. P,2007,pp. 233) Italian Neorealism arose as World War II concluded and Benito Mussolini’s government fell. This resulted in the making of propaganda films coming to an end. Neorealism was a symbol of cultural change and social progress in Italy.

Neorealism films consisted of contemporary narratives and ideologies, and were often filmed in the streets due to significant damage being caused to most studios during the war. The neorealist style as we know it was established by a crowd of film critics that wrote for the magazine Cinema, some of the writers amongst this this crowd were Michelangelo Antonioni, Cesare Zavattini, Gianni Puccini and Luchino Visconti . The critics avoided publishing stories about politics as the editor-in-chief of the magazine was Vittorio Mussolini, son of Benito Mussolini the great fascist dictator.

Alternatively the critics attacked the white telephone films or Telefoni Bianchi which at the time were the successors of the industry. These films were set in upper class environments and stared upper class characters; they were the complete opposite to any films of the neorealism movement. During the spring of 1945, Benito Mussolini was executed resulting in Italy being liberated from German occupation. This particular period was known as the “Italian Spring,”. This allowed a chance to break free from old ways and offered a fresh realistic approach to film making.

Italian cinema went from using elaborate studio settings, to using the suburban and the urban streets in order to offer a more realistic setting. In terms of ideology Italian Neorealism films have specific traits, these are as following. The narrative tends to revolve around the lives of ordinary working class people as appose to the white telephone films which glorified the lives of the wealthy upper class people. Style was irrelevant when it came to neorealism, what was most important to a neorealist director or film maker was the emphasis on emotion and context, these were deemed as far more important than aspects such as style.

Certain ideologies were incorporated within he narrative of neorealism films, these included influences from both Marxist and Christian Ideals. In terms of Style Neorealism was unique and offered specific elements of style which previous films had not amongst these elements of style were, unrestricted plots which were often open ended and consisted of little structure. Most films were shot on natural locations and there was rarely anything which was shot in a studio, unless it was absolutely necessary.

Main protagonists were commonly non-professionals who were often given very little scripted dialogue, and were encouraged to improvise with natural conversational speech. The use of handheld camera was a recurrent technique and in addition to the natural light, gave an exceptionally documentary like style. Open City founded numerous principles of the neorealism movement, portraying visibly the struggle of regular Italian people to live from everyday under the extraordinary complications of the German occupation of Rome, deliberately doing what they can to challenge the occupation.

Bicycle Thieves by Vittorio De Sica is a film which is also representative of the genre, by using non-professional actors and documenting the hardship of the working class Italian after the war, De sica succeeded in making one of the most famous and influential neorealist film ever. The film was given an Academy Honorary award and four years after its release was branded as best film of all time by sight & sound magazine. “My films are a struggle against the absence of human solidarity. . . against the indifference of society towards suffering.

They are a word in favour of the poor and unhappy. ” Vittorio De Sica Neorealism influenced a vast amount of film makers all around the world to try their hand in the combination of ‘realism’ and film. One movement I am most familiar with is the social realist movement of Britain and also the films of the British New Wave. British New Wave and social realist films were heavily influenced by the Italian neorealist movement. Examples of British New wave films included Room at the top (Jack Clayton,1958), Poor Low (Ken Loach,1967) and Career Girls (Mike Leigh,1997).

Collectively all of these films have a nonprofessional cast and are shot on location rather than sets, they are also filmed on a low budget as appose to Hollywood Blockbusters. All of the conventions above are conventions which the Italians first used in their historically famous neorealism movement. The purpose of British New Wave and Social realist films were to focus specifically on the ordinary working class characters in order to exploit their situations and any social problems which may be going on. Ken Loach is an English film director; he was born on 17th June 1936.

He is well known for his naturalistic film style and his social realist style of directing. Loaches film style on a whole pays homage and is heavily influenced by the Italian neorealism movement. Loach prefers to use unknown actors who have had at least some experience in the life of the characters they portray. In a 2010 interview Loach explained how he had been heavily influenced by Bicycle Thieves (Vittorio De Sica,1948) ‘It made me realise that cinema could be about ordinary people and their dilemmas. It wasn’t a film about stars, or riches or absurd adventures. (Lamont, T,2010,The Observer).

The work of other English social realist directors such as Shane Meadows is also heavily influenced by the Italian neorealism movement. This is England (Shane Meadows, 2006) is a prime example of gritty social realism. The cast consists of mostly nonprofessional actors and the film was shot naturalistically on location in areas of North West England. The film also manages to incorporate social problems/crisis into the film. Examples of this are as following, the film is set in the late 80’s and often references the negative effects Margaret Thatcher is having on them. Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister at the time). Other issues such as unemployment and Racism and the effects of the Cold War are all interlocked and collectively make up the narrative structure of this social realist drama. The French new wave movement was also heavily influenced by neo realism. New wave cinema was formed by a group of film critics who collectively published the French film magazine Cahiers du cinema. The three main film critics who worked for the magazine and established the French New wave movement were Fracois Traffaut, Jean-Luc Goddard and Andre Bazin.

The wave was influenced by the Italian neorealism movement and the classical Hollywood cinema system; however there were budget constraints as France had just finished battling WW2. Some of the style and techniques were very similar to the techniques used by the Italians during the neorealist movement. Films from the movement were shot on location as appose to on a set, this was a convention directly copied from the Italian neorealist movement. The nonprofessional cast were also urged to improvise their dialogue, another convention directly copied from the neorealist movement.

Despite the new waves visual style being more noticeable than the style of Italian neorealism, the two movements both had a common desire which was to produce honest true to life films which were far more real than any of the films produced by Hollywood. Each of the movements also took film making out of the hands of the studios and gave the task to individuals as appose to studio systems. All the way over in America film making was being influenced by the practices of neorealist film makers from Italy. American direct cinema was a documentary genre and was originated shortly after the decline of neorealism movement.

Direct cinema was similar to neorealism in many respects as its aim was to capture reality and to also represent the events portrayed both truthfully and accurately. ‘Direct Cinema is the result of two predominant and related factors—the desire for a new cinematic realism and the development of the equipment necessary to achieving that desire’’(Monaco,P,2003,pp206). After recognising the success of the realism and film combination, Hollywood eventually decided to produce films with elements which had elements of realism and social issues within them.

Easy Rider (Dennis Hopper 1969) was one of the first Hollywood films which incorporated real social issues and tensions into film. Real life social problems were being portrayed, similar to the social problems portrayed in films within the neorealism movement. Social problems which were incorporated within the film included the use of illegal drugs amongst American citizens and also the rise and fall of the hippie movement. This was just one of the first realism films produce by Hollywood however it was far from the last.

The Italian Neo realist movement went on to influence almost every single film movement which followed, and influences can be seen most recently in the Danish Dogme 95 movement. Dogme was an avant-garde movement which was devised by Danish directors Thomas Vinterberg and Lars von Trier. The movement was successful as it meant that anybody could produce a recognised film without gaining financial support from studio systems, government subsidies and television station funding was used alternatively. Dogme films must be filmed on location with the use of no props or sets, sound must be dialogue from actors and cannot be produced artificially.

The camera must be hand held and the use of optical work and filters is totally forbidden, the actors in dogme films must be nonprofessional and the director cannot be credited. These are just some of many of the strict conventions of a dogme film. It is obvious that neorealism movement has influenced this dogme95 as many of the conventions are identical. It is safe to say that Italian Neorealism did a lot for the practices of film making. Both in terms of technique and visual style, neorealism went on to influence world cinema and has had a significant effect on French cinema, British cinema and even Hollywood.

Genres such as social realist dramas and the Danish Dogme 95 genre would have never came to our screens if it wasn’t for the influences of Italian neorealism. The documentary as we know it may have never even come to existence if it wasn’t for the movement. Italian film makers such as Rossellini and De Sica paved the way for social realist directors such as Ken Loach, Shane Meadows and even Martin Scorsese. “It would be difficult to overestimate how influential the opening up of such possibilities for the cinema has been. ”(Wagstaff,2000,pp46)


Brunette,P,1987 Roberto Rossellini, University of California press. Cook,P,2007 The Cinema Book 3rd edition, BFI publishing Lamont,P, Sunday May 10th2010, The guardian Monaco, P,2003, The sixties, University of California Press Wagstaff,2000,Roberto Rossellini: Magician of the real, BFI publishing Filmography: Rome Open City (1945, Roberto Rosselini) Bicycle Thieves (1948, Vittorio De Sica) Room at the top (1959, Jack Clayton) Poor Low (1967, Ken Loach) Career Girls (1997, Mike Leigh) This is England (2006, Shane Meadows) Easy Rider (1969, Dennis Hopper)

Cite this page

Development of Neo Realism. (2017, Jan 29). Retrieved from

Remember! This essay was written by a student

You can get a custom paper by one of our expert writers

Order custom paper Without paying upfront