The Must-Sees of Neorealist Cinema
A Women and Neorealism curated selection of important neorealist films one should watch to gain a fuller understanding of the genre.
Blogger’s Note: If you intend on making a marathon out of these, you are going to need one huge box of tissues.
Bicycle Thieves (Vittorio De Sica, 1948)
A man loses his the bicycle he must have in order to keep his job and support his family in Postwar Rome. He keeps his son close by as he attempts to track down his all important bicycle.
Umberto D. (Vittorio De Sica, 1952)
*FLAGRANT AUTHOR BIAS: My personal favorite neorealist film!
This blurb from Criterion.com says it best: “Shot on location with a cast of nonprofessional actors, Vittorio De Sica’s neorealist masterpiece follows Umberto D., an elderly pensioner, as he struggles to make ends meet during Italy’s postwar economic boom. Alone except for his dog, Flike, Umberto strives to maintain his dignity while trying to survive in a city where traditional human kindness seems to have lost out to the forces of modernization. Umberto’s simple quest to fulfill the most fundamental human needs—food, shelter, companionship—is one of the most heartbreaking stories ever filmed and an essential classic of world cinema.”
The Children Are Watching Us (Vittorio De Sica, 1944)
A young boy comes to terms with the reality of life after his mother leaves the family for her new lover. This film, while not exactly neorealist, is one of the most famous precursors to the genre.
Rome, Open City (Roberto Rossellini, 1945)
This tragic story depicts the struggle between Italian Resistance members and the German occupiers. I discuss this film more in depth in previous blog posts.
Paisan (Roberto Rossellini, 1946)
A series of vignettes depicting the communication, or lack thereof, between Italians and American Allies during and after World War II. Shorts include an interaction between a young Sicilian girl and an American soldier who do not speak each other’s language, a Black American soldier and a small Italian boy in the shambled slums of liberated Italy, and a British woman searching for her Italian lover, amongst other similar but very different tales.
Germany, Year Zero (Roberto Rossellini, 1948)
“The concluding chapter of Roberto Rossellini’s War Trilogy is the most devastating, a portrait of an obliterated Berlin, seen through the eyes of a twelve-year-old boy. Living in a bombed-out apartment building with his sick father and two older siblings, young Edmund is mostly left to wander unsupervised, getting ensnared in the black-market schemes of a group of teenagers and coming under the nefarious influence of a Nazi-sympathizing ex-teacher. Germany Year Zero (Deutschland im Jahre Null) is a daring, gut-wrenching look at the consequences of fascism, for society and the individual.” – Also from Criterion.com
Stromboli (Roberto Rossellini, 1950)
This film is widely known as the first collaboration between Roberto Rossellini and future wife, Ingrid Bergman, but the story of Karen (Bergman) an war refugee who marries an Italian man to escape her camp, is a fascinating tale of dislocation and determination. The final scene, in particular, is worth a viewing.
Bitter Rice (Giuseppe De Santis, 1949)
Bitter Rice is perhaps more well known for its sexualization of star Silvana Mangano, but the film concerns escaped convicts who go into hiding in the rice fields of rural Italy.
La Terra Trema or The Earth Trembles (Luchino Visconti, 1948)
“In rural Sicily, the fishermen live at the mercy of the greedy wholesalers. One family risks everything to buy their own boat and operate independently.” – From IMDB