A New Guide to Italian Cinema (Italian & Italian American by Carlo Celli, Marga Cottino-Jones

By Carlo Celli, Marga Cottino-Jones

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37 Many of the techniques later classified as neorealist were already firmly entrenched in the Italian professional cinema of the 1930s. By the early 1940s, the idea of neorealism as a style of cinema was gaining a strong foothold. 38 With the approach of WWII the Italian cinema also offered documentary style films such as Rossellini’s depiction of a military hospital ship, La nave bianca/The Hospital Ship (1941), and Francesco De Robertis’s Uomini sul fondo (1941) about a submarine crew. Such films did not accept distinctions between documentary and fictional film narratives.

3 Italia Manzini (Sophonisba) from Cabiria. 21 Italy’s first film, Alberini’s silent The Taking of Rome 1870 (1905), was a re-creation of Garibaldi’s successful conquest of Rome in 1870, a concluding episode of the Risorgimento and Italian unification. 22 Divismo Public interest in the stars of films became a common aspect of Italian silent film. Actresses such as Francesca Bertini, Lyda Borelli, Pina Menichelli, Lina Cavalieri, Hesperia, Leda Gys, and Rina De’ Liguoro gained acclaim through the phenomenon of divismo or star-idolatry.

The division of the Italian Left into opposing factions rendered it incapable of profiting from the political and economic situation. The government, led by the Liberal Party, failed to secure a peaceful solution and Italians responded to Mussolini’s call for a return to law and order. The middle and property-owning classes were fearful that these difficult economic and political conditions could lead to a revolution patterned on the 1917 Russian Bolshevik revolution. The situation was ripe for an opportunistic and decided leader like Mussolini to impose his will and his Fascist Party on the nation.

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