|Silvana Mangano in "Riso amaro"|
It's been called one of the most crucial and influential film movements of all time. Literally produced among the ashes and rubble following WWII, neorealism films are among the most raw and simple films ever made, and at the same time, they are among the most beautiful because they possess a simplicity and honesty rarely found in anything non-fiction or big-budget. The art of neorealism lies within the ability to work with minimal resources while achieving maximum effect. Shot on location using mostly God's light and non-professional actors, these films broke new ground with their real-life depictions of the working class and Italian society. Neorealism filmmakers such as Vittorio De Sica and Roberto Rossellini were not merely interested in making fictional movies. Instead, they made powerful social statements about the suffering that was going on in their own backyards. They wanted to change things. They wanted to stand up for the people and be the voice of a nation. In doing so, they had a powerful impact on the people of Italy and the way the rest of the world viewed their country.
|Anna Magnani and Ettore Garofolo in "Mamma Roma"|
Based on my research, I've come to the conclusion that neorealism is truly in the eyes of the beholder. Everyone I talked with has their own favorite film, their own passionate opinion. If I had to choose one film that defined neorealism for me, it would have to be Vittorio De Sica's "Ladri di biciclette" (Bicycle Thieves). Although one of the film's screenwriters confessed that the film really has no plot, "Ladri di biciclette" is about a man whose only means of work is through a precious bicycle that ends up stolen.
|Lamberto Maggiorani and Enzo Staiola in "Ladri di biciclette"|
Peña went on to explain the importance of neorealism films to Italian history. “The importance of neorealism for Italian history was that it focused the world's attention once again on Italy and Italian culture. No Italian movement, except perhaps for design or fashion, has had the worldwide impact that neorealism has had. I also think it returned the arts to a place of importance in the national dialog about the future of the country.”
|Carlo Bruni in "Il miracolo"|
The filmmakers of the neorealism movement live on in the work of directors today. Many young Italian directors have taken their cameras out of the studios and back to the streets. You can see this in the films of Edoardo Winspeare, a Pugliese director who shoots mostly on location using regional music and many non-professional actors. Alessandro Piva did the same with his sleeper hit “La Capagira”, which made unknown theater actor, Dino Abbrescia an overnight success. I also spoke with New York University Film Professor, Antonio Monda, about neorealism's influence on today's filmmakers. He feels that in Italy, neorealism influences can be seen vividly in the work of Gianni Amelio, especially in his 1994 film, "Lamerica", which is about Albanian immigration in Italy. Monda also feels that neorealism has reached beyond Italian borders and has had an impact on world cinema, especially in Iran with the films of Abbas Rostani.
Since neorealism films are so cherished and highly regarded, many of them are still available today. You can find them easily one sites such as Amazon and Netflix.