By Tommaso Cartia
Italy, 1930-1960. A country divided before it was even really united. The Italian population was fragmented, turned out by the war, slave of a regime. It was desperately seeking freedom, it was desperately looking for its own identity. At that time Italy needed to be real, needed to look in the face the desecration of its beauty perpetuated by strangers’ hands and ultimately by the Italians themselves. It was first chaos, then war, then misery, then triumph, then rebuild, then rebirth.
Artists didn’t have time for fairy tales but they certainly felt an urgency of telling tales, of reporting the brutality of that catastrophe through the faces of their protagonists. This urgency for realism would eventually end up producing one of the strongest and most recognizable Italian aesthetics, which is the neorealism. The world, and the United States in particular, has been always fascinated by the bittersweet beauty of the images of Italy during that time, fiercely depicted by the lens of cinema in masterpieces such as Ossessione by Luchino Visconti, Rome Open City by Roberto Rossellini or Bicycle Thieves by Vittorio De Sica, to name a few. What people are less familiar with, is that neorealism was a choral, transversal aesthetics that didn’t interest just cinema, but also literature, with authors like Giovanni Verga or Luigi Pirandello, and photography.