Cinema and landscape, Italian heritage and widespread museum

Marcello Zeppi

Montecatini Cinema Association, Italy


“Historical and artistic beauty is pervasive, it enters every corner of the territory.”
The landscape is a fundamental identity factor for Italy.
The landscape has long been considered a multiplier of the value of The Italian historical-artistic and architectural heritage. Over time the way you tell the landscape changes.
Writers and travelers with their stories have helped to create the myth of the Italian landscape by retracing the narrative matrix back in time of the “great tours” in the 18th and 19th centuries, often describing it as “garden of Europe”, or “beautiful country “.
In the twentieth century the history of the landscape used different forms of artistic expression. Painters, poets, artists, musicians use the landscape to give value to their works. Today we tell it with cameras, cinema, digital.
The report aims to investigate the relationship between landscape and storytelling in cinema, between landscape and characters, between landscape and gaze.
The intent of the report is to analyze the transgressive function that the landscape has often had in cinema, and in particular in the Italian one, in order to make it one of the most interesting experiences of the twentieth century. It’s not just about aesthetics, it’s also about ethics, because learning to look is an important step to get to know ourselves, our world and our limits.

Keywords: Cinema, Landscape, Culture, Art, Values.

The landscape in cinema

If the Cinematographer, at least in the intentions of the Lumières, was intended to look at the world, to travel to discover people, unknown cultures to bring them home, it was certainly not to respect nature, but to dominate it and subjugate it to science. Soon, however, narrative cinema reduced the landscape to the role of theatrical background, visual musical accompaniment for the stories told and the dramaturgy of the characters: it was discovered that the waterfalls or the stormy sea could emphasize a criminal or sentimental drama, as the desert could be a strong metaphor of eroticism and so on. Only the slow but inexorable revolution of modern cinema, which starts from Neorealism and reaches to the present day, has restored to the landscape all its autonomy and even its complexity and its contradictions, to even go as far as the contrast between the drama of human events and the indifference of nature.

The specificity of the Italian Landscape is formed by a close relationship between environment, culture, history, landscape, population. In Italian cinema the landscape appears to be a mirror of the inner otherness and mystery that a person, a family, a country can hide. The regional landscape and the consciousness of the anthropological gaze prove to be a great keystone of the new Italian cinema.

Genesis of the Italian landscape at the cinema

To reconstruct the transformations of our landscape, cinema is a formidable tool until now little used. From Romanticism, when the current idea of landscape arrives in our Peninsula, until the early twentieth century, Italians have looked at our landscape through the history of art. From Giotto to the squares of De Chirico and the suburbs of Sironi, it was painting that taught us to look at the transformations of our territory. At some point in the twentieth century cinema replaces painting, also because it veers towards the abstract, although, as some have done, juxtaposing a cut of Fontana with an aerial photo of the Autosole that crosses the Po Valley is certainly an inspiring exercise.

A bit of reality, then a bit of landscape, was filtered in Italian cinema at the passage between mute and sound. Propaganda works such as Sole (1929) by Alessandro Blasetti, on the reclamation of the Pontine Marshes, or Steel (1933) by Walter Ruttmman, famous German director called to illustrate the steel plant of Terni (to the film collaborates Luigi Pirandello). Dto the magnificent Rotaie (1929-30) by Mario Camerini that has an urban setting worthy of the divinatory fantasies of Fritz Lang and that imagines a first landscape of modernity and, of the same director, the next Men who rascals (1932), where the twentieth century Milanese is mirrored in the new residential neighborhoods, in the pavilions of the Fair and in the sympathetic face of Vittorio De Sica. You could add Popular Train (1933) by Raphael Matarazzo that tells an after-work trip Rome-Orvieto and in which you can see some sections of the countryside and the first Roman suburbs, to compare with the novel of the same name and contemporary by Paola Masino. In these films there is the whip, and even more, of Emilio Cecchi, for some time at the head of Cines, then the most important film production company of our house. A conservative in Hollywood in the early 1930s, Cecchi puts in the hands of Blasetti, who is about to shoot 1860 (1932), the Noterelle of one of the Thousand of Julius Caesar Abba for documentary and landscape scrupulousness. A student of Camerini, Mario Soldati, takes great care in setting the places, the romantic Italian Lake District, his two beautiful films: Little Ancient World (1941) and Malombra (1942). Soldiers is also a devotee of Cecchi who, as we know, is the main supporter of the recovery of the formal values of 19th-century Italian painting.

We are already in the years of war and between 1942 and ‘43 two films are made that are decisive for a new approach to the Italian landscape. In that year Luchino Visconti filmed Obsession in Ancona and in the Ferrara plain and, a few kilometers away, Michelangelo Antonioni returns to the places of childhood filming a short documentary, Gente del Po, where, telling the life around the river, there is already all his cinema; For Visconti, the landscape is primarily a mirror of the characters’ feelings. For both, however, the figurative influence of cinema French of the Front populaire (Visconti was jean Renoir’s assistant on the set of Une partie de campagne, 1936, his son’s figurative homage to his father Pierre Auguste). On the front of italian film magazines, a place of formation, in the years leading up to the Second World War, of many of the post-war filmmakers, there is the rediscovery of Verga – still not known his work as a photographer – with the verismo used as a tool to return to reality after years of asphyxiating interiors of the twentieth century.

After 8 September the official part of Italian cinema moves to Venice, those who remain in Rome have to invent gimmicks in order to shoot – Cinecittà is not accessible, there is little film, the most famous actors have escaped to the North – this is how, coincidentally, Rome was born open city (1944) and, with it, neorealism. Rossellini, a man of great practical intelligence and true artist, theorizes ex post this new way of making cinema with the next Paisà (1945), which is the dramatized chronicle of the Liberation, but also the discovery of a landscape upset, going back from Sicily to Naples, Rome, Florence (where the partisans use the Vasarian corridor to cross the Arno, being all the other bridges mined by the Germans), to the Tosco-Emilian Apennine, to the Delta del Po, a true example of landscape cinema.

Directors, screenwriters, writers – cinema from that moment becomes the most important artistic expression in Italy, at least until the mid-seventies – realize that there is to show a new country, stories of ordinary people, but also urban and agricultural landscapes still unknown and “exotic” in the eyes of the Italians themselves. It is at that moment that cinema replaces painting as an instrument of observation of reality, therefore of the landscape. Writers, journalists, architects, working women, nobles, adventurers: Rome becomes the place of clot of a new generation to which yesterday’s world was bound. The method of work was told, among others, by Suso Cecchi d’Amico, great screenwriter and daughter of Emilio. From the reading of the newspapers a news outlet was stolen, a subject was quickly written – the specialist was Zavattini, the engine of Italian cinema of those years – and deposited it in SIAE. If the film had started, the producer would have given some money to the director and a screenwriter to do the inspections, which were the founding moment of this new way of making cinema.

Urban Suburbs (Bicycle Thieves, 1948, and Miracle in Milan, 1951), Neapolitan Bass (Forbidden steal, 1948), a Sicily from western films (In the name of the law, 1949) or Verghiana (The Earth Trembles, 1948), the rice paddies of the vercellese (Bitter Rice, 1949), the unhealthy and swampy areas (Tragic Hunt, 1947 and The Sky on the Swamp, 1949), the Lido of Ostia (A Sunday of August, 1950 , The Passaguai Family, 1951), other trips to Italy (It is Spring, 1949 or The Path of Hope, 1950), the American-occupied Livorno (Without Mercy, 1948 and Tombolo Black Paradise, 1947). But the frames that make the most impression are the opening sequences of Mario Mattoli’s The Life Starts Again (1945) in which Fosco Giachetti moves through the rubble of Cassino. It is the real zero year of Italian cinema and perhaps a part of our landscape. Or, to play down, it is worth resorting to the cynicism of Longanesi who in front of the destroyed cities chisulated: “they destroyed the originals of the slabs of Alinari”.

Neorealism soon fed the Italian audience who preferred American films. The directors of the “second neorealism” emerge, while the dying southern peasant world is filmed in 10 extraordinary short films (1955-1959) – it is hard to call them documentaries – of the great Vittorio de Seta.

The acceleration of Italian society, the boom years, are summarized in three masterpieces, which were also box office successes, released between 1959 and 1960. For our purposes the most important is Rocco and his brothers (1959) by Luchino Visconti, with the exploration of the new industrial suburbs of Milan, which were in fact still largely under construction, on the track of the novels of Giovanni Testori and the photographic campaign of Mario Carrieri (Milan, Italy) that treats Milan, and the incipient consumer society, as William Klein observes New York. The second film is Antonioni’s The Adventure (1960), a film that shows the untouched landscapes of Noto and the Sicilian islands. The Dolce vita (1960) by Federico Fellini, narrates in direct the anthropological mutation of Italians: the landscape clues are, in my memory, the use of artificial light (neons, street lighting and sunglasses that Mastroianni wears day and night) that alter the perception of the landscape.

The boom years are a coexistence of old and new, landscapes that are transformed in the midst of ancient faces. The most acute example can be found in the first famous films of Pasolini, shot between 1961 and 1963, with the use of the new suburbs (Accattone, Mamma Roma, La ricotta). There is also an ironic counter-chant in Franca Valeri’s monologue in Paris, or cara (1962) by Vittorio Caprioli, co-written with Raffaele La Capria, who loathes the historic palaces of central Rome and enhances the functional palaces of the new suburbs. But it is also interesting to note that the only ‘modern’ Roman landscape available to the filmmakers, removed from Fiumicino airport, remains the EUR, as shown by Fellini in the episode The Temptations of Dr. Antonio, episode of Boccaccio 70 (1962) with Peppino De Filippo and Anita Ekberg and Elio Petri in The Tenth Victim (1965), precocious and solitary science fiction film that mixes the EUR , of ancient Ostia.

The greatest changes in the landscape, and its perception, are infrastructural and are measured by comparing Dino Risi’s The Overtaking (1962) where around Aurelia flows an ever-changing human comedy in a landscape that seems above all messy: road signs, first building abuses etc., to the films, not particularly memorable, which use the newborn (1964) Sun Highway that has around it , at least at the beginning, an almost bare landscape. I will mention only one title: A beautiful grit (1965) by Giuliano Montaldo in which the industrialist Renato Salvatori builds his factory next to the highway. In an article on the ‘World’ of the same year, Geno Pampaloni senses that these strips of ‘American’ landscape that form around the highway are destined to produce profound alterations in the relationship between Italians and their own territory.

Another major change in our landscape is that which follows mass tourism, especially marine tourism. The Adriatic coast is the object of Valerio Zurlini’s films: for example, in the beautiful finale of The Girl with the Suitcase (1962) with a scene that has the background of the newly built Riccione Skyscraper. Riccione is also filmed in Dino Risi’s Umbrella (1965). “A fungal construction”, to use an expression of Gadda, which is realized in less than twenty years, so much so that it can be said that the Romagna Coast and Versilia are among the least changed landscapes since then. Liguria, thinking of the famous story The construction speculation, late fifties, by Italo Calvino has no films that document its ‘rapalization’ (a term coined by Giorgio Bocca).

Those who tackle the subject of construction speculation, a recurring topic in liberal weekly rather than newspapers, are of course Francesco Rosi in The Hands on the City (1963). The reality is transformed so quickly, during the sixties, that almost every film is worth as a tool to understand anthropological changes, landscape, etc., 1961, the petrochemical action painting of The Red Desert,1964, Rome and the province in the films of Antonio Pietrangeli (The Visit, 1963 , La parmigiana, 1963, the comedies of Risi, or the first films of Olmi (the Milan del Posto, 1961, the Sicily of The Boyfriends, 1963), the Treviso of Pietro Germi in Lord and Gentlemen, a sort of Dolce in life, 1965, but also Lizzani, Damiani, Lattuada, Ferreri and I forget many of them. A recurring theme is Italy at two speeds: the city that transforms, the countryside that remains intact. In between, the terrain vague. Ugo Tognazzi who asks when they unpack the social housing house in Pioltello, the neologism is “satellite quarter”, in The Agra Life (1964) by Carlo Lizzani, is a photograph of a new Italian immersed in a new landscape.

The boom is told, immediately tell of the damage, which also affects the landscape. It is always the face of Tognazzi, magistrate in In the name of the Italian people 1971, by Dino Risi, who observes the environmental damage caused by a businessman and cheater builder like Vittorio Gassman. Or Gigi Proietti’s development plans in the still intact Salento in Le I’ll be a father (1974), by Alberto Lattuada, plans that seem to be realized only now, 40 years later, in Porto Miggiano (with local environmental associations using the film as a tool of struggle).

The seventies are those of a realized modernity, of a landscape that has liquefied the remains of peasant Italy or, more generically, popular. The indication more than from the great authors, with the exception perhaps of the episode of Rome (1972) by Fellini (compared to the coevous novel The Emerald, almost masterpiece of science fiction by Mario Soldati), where a hellish ring connection is reconstructed, comes from genre cinema: the Italian police or police. Tangential, motorway junctions, new neighborhoods are the necessary background of The films of Fernando Di Leo as Milan caliber 9 (1972), or the various Genoa, Turin, Violent Rome. A kind of American importance that needs an ‘American’ landscape. The change in the landscape also concerns the small towns: the beautiful lesson of reading the landscape, on the shape of the city of Orte (1974), which Pasolini makes for the RAI is more or less contemporary to the joke of my Friends (1975) by Monicelli who pretend to want to pass the route of the highway to the abandoned center, not yet historic, of a small village in central Italy (in the film it is Tuscan) , but it’s actually Cisterna in upper Lazio).

In the mid-seventies a few other things are happening that change the way we look at the landscape: comes the color TV, begins the recovery of peasant roots, more indirectly in the twentieth century (1976) by Bernardo Bertolucci, more directly in Ermanno Olmi’s The Tree of Hooves (1978), the series of products of the White Mill that we associate with the spots of the 1970s was born. , but that dates back to the mid-seventies, when nature, the countryside, begins to become an artificial landscape.

The 1980s were those of the advent of commercial TV, Italian cinema is definitely in crisis. It is more difficult to use it as a tool to understand the changes in society and also of our landscape.

However, we see that the countryside around small towns becomes residential: as in the surroundings of Parma in Bertolucci’s Tragedy of a Ridiculous Man (1981), or that the countryside is, so to speak, ‘urbanized’ in the customs and partly in the landscape in Monicelli’s (1985) or that the 1960s have become an archetype, the beginning of an era in which we are still immersed in an era in which we are still immersed in the , with the series Taste of the Sea (1983), shot in a fortress of the marbles real and in a reconstructed in Fregene by the Vanzina brothers (almost ready to be re-evaluated).

Nanni Moretti, on the other hand, pays an affectionate tribute to the landscape of the Roman suburbs that he travels with his Vespa in Dear Diary (1993). We are in the early nineties and cinema resumes to look at reality: the calabria of the Thief of Children (1992) by Gianni Amelio, but also the invention of tradition, the new Italy of the festivals, of The Voice of the Moon (1990), the last film by Federico Fellini. Saibene, Alberto.2016. Milan: Landscape and Cinema.: Double Zero Cultural Association.

Landscape and culture

Let’s consider some of the images that have characterized the archetypes ofour culture.

Francesco Petrarca painstakingly climbs the steep slopes of Mount Ventoso.

The ascent becomes in reality, an allegory of the spiritual crisis of the poet, and therefore the attainment of the summit can become explicit symbol of eternal salvation.

The geographical description joins the psychological one, to make clearer the understanding of the metaphorical sense text: Petrarca, who is about to ascend in the company of his brother Gherardo. The symbolic reading is immediate: Gherardo Petrarca, Monaco, rises without difficulty because he is free from the slavery of material goods, while Francis still recognizes himself tied to the sinful pleasures of the Earth.

Anima and landscape: Francesco Petrarca often uses lyrical images inspired by nature. For the Poet a sunrise or a sunset, a hill or a flowering meadow are natural spectacles that give the landscape surprising aspects. Real landscape and landscape of the soul therefore, an inseparable pair

The Landscape of Interiorism does not recognize much importance tothereal landscape, it surpasses it, enriches the one imagined (the look excludes).

The “excluded look”, by Leopardi, with the hedge that makes you imagine infinity: here are some images that immediately come to mind, when it comes to landscape, to attest, if there was a need, that this is one of the symbolic forms of Western culture, the motivation of man who looks at a natural scenery.

A landscape seen for the first time, may be completely anonymous, but it comes to mind a consimilar, homologable, or perhaps different for the quality of the details, it is as if the real vision overlaps another, as if the object overlaps its double; at that point the landscape is no longer cold and aseptic, external, but becomes a content of interiority and is enriched emotionally, it is charged with a deeper value. ‘Vague’, ‘infinite’, ‘remembrance’, are the founding terms of leopard poetry, as you can guess referring to the beating heart of the leopard system, the theory of pleasure.

This would certainly be enough on its own to motivate a study of the landscape in cinema, if there were no others. The presence of an observer, which is an essential part of the landscape itself, implies a reference to the act of looking that, if in literature and painting is recurrent, in modern and contemporary cinema it becomes essential, constitutive of the language itself, a factor of the last and deep sense to which every cinematic work can be traced.

The landscape is an experience, not an autonomous object, and studying it means studying a culture, its way of building space, of relating to itself, that relationship between the known and the unknown that we usually call “world”.

In cinema, landscape means not only relationship between character and space, between man and world, but also relationship between different levels of gaze; there is the observer, who is a character, and the camera, who observes the observer. A more complex game of points of view is articulated, and when this relationship is proposed as a comparison between two glances, between two points of view, the cinematic landscape becomes a starting point for a reflection not only on cinema, but implicitly also on the act of looking understood as a cognitive act. Behind the observer and behind the camera, however, another look luurs, in the shadow, that of the spectator, who organizes and structures his relationship with the film according to codes and cultural models always different, in space and time: the reception of the works always changes. The stereoscopy of these glances, the mutual dislocation of these points of view should not be overlooked; reflecting on the landscape also means reflecting on three visual experiences: the look of the characters inside the film, the gaze of the film, the viewer’s gaze on the film. These are three different acts of culture that need to be compared and distinguished and that the criticism or even the analysis of the film have sometimes confused in a single level, attributing to the text what often belongs to the character or the viewer, to the critic, to the analyst, roles that only in more recent times have been studied in their autonomous correlation.

To this multiplicity of glances must be added what characterizes the cinema, its technical structure.

Cinema is a system of representation that works in the same way as the human mind, but it can be added that it is potentially a tool to rethink the world through the eye, since the change of views (editing) and their slippage (camera movements) technically embody the movement of gaze and thought, the ability to look at something from many sides , to approach and distance, to get away from themselves and to look through the relationship between images.

This movement is the very work of philosophy, a continuous departure from oneself, from one’s point of view, to study from the outside. We can look at or look at ourselves from where a little object stood, or a wall, or a deserted rock. Yet the astonishment of these early experiences was soon forgotten and cinema was only used to tell stories, to entertain, to build shows. Nothing wrong, indeed often the cinema thinks through the show, makes it a system of representation of second, third or fourth level, challenging even the most complex thoughts.

And precisely this stratification, this complex play of points of view that highlights, in our visual experience, the dialectic of two simultaneous movements: that of seeing and that of looking.

The invisible is a constituent and decisive part of the visible.

Cinema, like other arts, when it is an art, teaches us not only to see, which is part of our education, but to look and see together, that is to recover that wealth and openness on the possibles that it is in looking, without losing the equally important knowledge that is to see.

Landscape scenes, in which a man looks at the world, often become experiences-limit, thresholds that drag us beyond culture, our way of seeing the world, without abandoning this way; they invite us to go beyond ourselves without slipping into a complete loss of identity. Could the landscape be studied as a border moment? And what kind of border?

If in general landscape scenes are moments of reflection, in Italian cinema, or at least in a part of it, which follows the neorealist legacy, accadand something more.

The landscape, or, often,becomes a real character, an interlocutor, many times a ruthless antagonist towards the characters; it is no longer a mirror of the soul, it is no longer space of action but, on the contrary, it often becomes a vast, opaque place, where action and sometimes even the characters risk getting lost; a threshold in which the limits of culture and knowledge are glimpsed.

In the character-landscape relationship Italian cinema - this part of Italian cinemadoes not, questions, more or less consciously, the culture, that is, the whole system of codes within which every subject exists and without which it would have no identity. Along with the character, the camera also discovers the limits of its knowledge, it too is often faced with the unknown, meets the deep, archaic roots of our knowledge.

Codes and archetypes in post-war Italian Cinema

The Italian post-war period is a period of great transformations but also of great preservations that take place in the cultural and social fabric, a period in which, to use a famous phrase ‘everything changes and everything remains as it is’.

Industrial culture asserts itself, but comes to confront the remnants of ancient and persistent cultures. In this confrontation with the past the modern worldview clashes with the more remote ones and meets in them its limit, its boundary.

It is here that the play of the points of view put in motion by cinema becomes essential to illustrate the overlap, the coexistence of images and cultures, the multiplicity of centers and perspectives that exist and act simultaneously. This relationship between old and new, between change and identity, between movement and immobility, anticipating in many ways a present discomfort, current conflicts and uncertainties, can be read in watermark in the relationship between characters, camera and landscape. Italian cinema, in the second half of the twentieth century, is a cinema of great landscapes.

The psychosis of the technological landscape from Michelangelo Antonioni to Ghirri

Antonioni has a unique way of introducing characters through the landscape (and the other way around).

The extraordinary mastery of the arrangement of the actors in relation to the set design (and vice versa).

His use of depth of field imprisons us like flies in a spider web.

Antonioni, as an artist, medianically feels something different that fidgets behind the technological landscapes that serve as the setting for “Red Desert”.

He feels the discomfort of modernity, he blows it up in the form of private neurosis, of disorientation. Word full of meaning, in this case.

In the Red Desert, no one ever holds a camera. None of the actors. But the director seems to have it in his hand. That makes a repeated use, insistent until redundancy, of the fixed framing. Especially in the long, scenic field, outdoors. The film is from 1964. Those machines, the Machines, are not yet, as we risk seeing them from our post-industrial age, of the wrecks of modernity. They are still prometheic efficient machines and are literally fabricating, in those years, the well-being of Italians. They should be then, and again, heroic machines, epic

That film was a stylistic shock. Because it was Antonioni’s first color film, and what colors: dusty, sometimes washed-out, sometimes gloomy, often almost monochrome of reddish, greenish shades, sometimes juxtaposed combinations of complementary and incongruous (it had to be called Heaven and Green).

But it was also, and mainly, for the choice of scenarios. The red desert is shot entirely (except for a fairytale and dreamlike sequence on Budelli beach) in the industrial area of the port of Ravenna. In an industrial landscape on which disproportionate and disproportionate machinery combs, incomprehensible, menacing.

The neo-realist, sociopolitical landscape after the war in Italy (urban periphery and countryside)

Neorealism, as it is called, can only be the treatment of reality in a lyrical form, but transferred to a higher plane.

Neorealism has had a huge influence on cinema around the world. The aspiration of many great filmmakers has always been, ever since, to achieve the kind of poetic realism that neorealism has introduced in cinema.

A neo-realist, Bicycle Thieves is according to all the principles that can be obtained from the best Italian films from 1946 to now. ‘Popular’ and even populist intrigue: an accident in a worker’s daily life. A truly insignificant, trivial accident even: a worker spends all day searching in vain in Rome for the bicycle they stole from him.

The event has no dramatic significance of its own. It makes sense only depending on the social (and not psychological or aesthetic) situation of the victim. It would be nothing more than a trivial misadventure without the spectre of unemployment that places it in Italian society in 1948.

If Bicycle Thieves is a pure masterpiece comparable to the rigor to Paisà, it is for a number of very precise reasons that never appear in the simple summary of the story or even in the superficial exhibition of the directing technique.

The script is first and foremost of a diabolical ability, since it regulates, starting from the alibi of social current events, more dramatic coordinate systems that prop it up in all senses. The thesis is of a wonderful and atrocious simplicity: in the world in which this worker lives, the poor, in order to survive, must rob each other. But this thesis is never placed as such, the chaining of events is always of a truthful and anecdotal.

This technique is by no means new in Italian films, it reaffirms its value with Paisà and, more recently, of Germany year zero, these last two films were based on the themes of Resistance and War. Bicycle thieves is the first decisive example of the possible conversion of this ‘objectivism’ to interchangeable subjects. De Sica and Zavattini have passed neorealism from resistance to revolution.

Bicycle thieves is, in many ways, the ideal centre of Italian cinematic neorealism. The film by Vittorio De Sica and Cesare Zavattini has all the basic characteristics of the movement: real environments, non-professional actors, a dramatic story about the harshness of the daily life of the popular classes.

The film presents unpublished elements of realism: on the level of dramaturgical construction the film obeys the Zavattinian theory of ‘tracking’, whereing the camera follows the characters as in real time (the last half hour of the film is almost completely devoid of time jumps). The same subject is of a disarming banality, seemingly insufficient material to a film; the greatness of De Sica and Zavattini is right here, in their ability to conquer the viewer with a minimal story.

But on closer inspection, Bicycle Thieves is by no means ‘film without film’: if the viewer is conquered it is because behind it there is a wise work of writing, a writing that “u2012 as always in any form of realist art “u2012 aims to deny its presence, to disguise stylistic artifice from ‘reality’.

Not that Bicycle Thieves is more aesthetically accomplished than other neo-realist masterpieces, from Rossellini’s open city Rome to Visconti’s La terra tremble: but de Sica’s film certainly embodies the quintessence of neorealism in the international collective imagination (it won the Oscar for best foreign film).

This ‘centrality’ also depends on the historical, social and political context in 1948 the country was violently split in two, between the Popular Front and Christian Democracy, in the elections of 18 April. Giame Alonge.. 2004. Ladri di biciclette..Roma.: Enciclopedia del Cinema, Treccani

Italian anthropological cinema, neorealism in Lucania, poor southern Italy

At the end of the 19th century in Lucania, an area that became symbolic as it concerns the peasant conditions that would be redeemed and modified through new programs and policies, Ernesto De Martino studies and records the ancient mythical and ritual representation of the “game of the scythe.” At the same time Luchino Visconti studied the location and did a detailed anthropological research for “Rocco and his brothers”, one of the masterpieces of Italian neorealism, published in Italy in 1960. The same year L. Del Fra presented “A Passion for Wheat”, a documentary based on documents and archival material of the research conducted by De Martino. Visconti’s neorealism and anthropological studies in southern Italy are linked by the same methodology used and by the creation of the paradigms of the first “anthropological cinema” or documentary that in Italy originates from “southern” cinema.

The literary and political suggestions of Christ stopped at Eboli by Carlo Levi and the humanism of the great neorealist season were intertwined with the programs of study and exaltation of the “progressive folklore” and, above all, with the already marked lines of a deep reflection on the crisis of European high culture and its relationship with traditional societies, of which the “archaic” and “magical” Lucania represented itself. , evidently, as emblematic.

A place at the same time mythical and real, symbol of an archaic and self-comical society and a peasant condition literary almost suspended in time and space, but at the same time emblem of a Mezzogiorno to be redeemed and transformed deeply through policies of different sign, the “Magic and Desolate Lucania” became in the fifties of the 1900s a kind of ethnographic laboratory where you can experiment methodical and investigative techniques within schools of various orientations.

In that Lucania, two important authors De Martino and Visconti - different in extraction, training and work united by the same sociopolitical and “southern” orientation - alternate on the same field to document and interpret another humanity, excluded and mute, distant in its archaic but immanent in its historical subjectivity.

Viscontian realist cinema and anthropological studies in southern Italy meet in the methodological commonality of “environmental studies”, of participating observation, in the construction of the paradigms of the first “anthropological cinema” or documentary that in Italy was born as a Southernist cinema.

He pointedly noted S. Bernardi: unlike realism in classical cinema, which Metz would call ‘illusion of diegetic reality’, produced by the continuity of the story, the coherence of the staging and the transparent editing, the realism of The Earth Trembles is based on the effects of the real.

Not on continuity, but on fragmentation, not on the construction and reinvention of an imaginary world, but on the photography of real places and people who interpret a story for us. It is one of the first cases in the history of cinema in which the representation unfolds its means before our eyes: we are faced with a broken writing, precisely, for excess precision, which pursues not the integration of the viewer into fiction, but a kind of involvement stronger. The point of view is always doubled: the much-discussed aesthetic attitude, or according to some even ecstatic, with which Visconti looks at his characters, and which displified Italian criticism for many years still after the release of the film, is part of this difference between observer and observer, between a look imbued with culture and a world that nevertheless emerges strong and safe, autonomous with respect to the observer. So everything is simple and at the same time everything is complex.” The methodological rigor, the formal care, the realism, the content thickness that characterize Visconti’s artistic work and the scientific work of De Martino.

The Viscontian lesson, also articulated in a formative practice that involved dozens of young actors and assistant directors, technicians and organizers of the film-theatre production of neo-Republic Italy, was internalized and practiced by groups of first-time directors who dedicated themselves to the documentary (Vittorio De Seta, Vito Pandolfi, Giuseppe Ferraro, Luigi Di Gianni, Gianfranco Mingozzi, Cecilia Mangini , Lino Del Fra to name a few) but also to a cinematography that had for protagonists peasants or shepherds. In the 1961-62 season, films such as Banditi a Orgosolo by De Seta, The Robber of Renato Castellari and Salvatore Giuliano by Francesco Rosi (assistant director of Visconti in La terra tremble) are released.

These films are made “after a very careful study of the environment”, almost applying to the letter the example of De Martino, so much so that Tullio Kezich points to them as a film triad in which “anthropological awareness” is reached.

The correlation between neorealism (Viscontian “total cinema”), anthropology and documentary film is implicitly recognized by scholars, researchers, film critics. Empty, Ugo.2018. Lecce. Campano Ethnographic Center-Institute of Historical and Anthropological Studies

The landscape described by Antonioni and Pasolini

Emilian landscape and dawn of neorealism in Luchino Visconti’s “Obsession”

Another great master, Luchino Visconti, has certainly contributed to thephenomenon of neorealism. that with the film Obsession (1943) started this new current, all described very well by Lizzani: ‘In Obsession there is a pre-announcement of what will be a certain murky post-war way and together a denunciation of the deep rupture that already existed then in Italian society between the golden facade of officiality and the rawness of daily life, between the agendas and the appeals to the force and the restlessness of the people. Visconti, in masterfully recounting the disturbing love story between Giovanna, happily married, and Gino, a tramp who arrived at random in his trattoria (taken from Cain’s novel “The Postman Always Sounds Twice”), uses the landscape of the Po and the cities of Ancona and Ferrara as a side dish to the unfolding of history.

In Obsession, the Italian landscape explodes with a new vigour and drama. The usual frames of the oil... are brokenand valicatand bravely for an adventurous and daring exploration. The streets and sunny plains of Emilia, the majestic course of the Po, and its levees extended to endless horizons, the twisted streets and squares of the provincial city, crowded with merchants and bicycles, the outdoor fair, the airy play of the steps of Ancona, are elements that give the film unusual perspectives and breath. To these exteriors, the film films equally new environments: inns, third-order hoteliers from dingy rooms, third classes with wooden seats, bare and white police offices, and sad furniture.’

In the asphalt road, in the darkness of the shops and the gloomy views that fled under the vigilantes

mountains, electric, disaund... The innocent with cynical sweetness strolled on the pavement; and the sick marble of a latrine whiten in the air clouded by the rain (Pier Paolo Pasolini)..

The purpose of this research is the representation of the street in Italian cinema and literature from 1943 to 1966. A “place” that has led us through the changes suffered by an increasingly anthropomorphic and increasingly less natural landscape, giving rise to uneven realities. From the North to the South, we have tried to make a journey through time and the space of memory, meeting places and people who have become images of numerous films and novels.

Images still alive thanks to these important testimonies, which have allowed to recreate “virtually” special and intense atmospheres. Atmospheres that enclose the urgency of recounting the changes taking place, as we have seen from the articles that appeared in the film magazines of the early 1940s.

“Neorealism was not a school. (Let’s try to say things exactly).) It was a collection of voices, largely peripheral, a multiple discovery of the different Italie, even - or especially - of the hitch’s newest Italie for literature”, and for cinema, we will add.

And so it is, through the unpublished Italie, more unknown that the road has led us, through a path that from Luchino Visconti’s Obsession leads us to the road of Birdbirds by Pier Paolo Pasolini; The last film taken into account, as Totò and Ninetto, represented, in our opinion, the last inhabitants of this place that is the road and that will become, from there on, another place, made of increasingly numerous and sophisticated means of transport, leaving little room for the walkers.

We were able to enter new and different worlds by following landscapes belonging to universes unknown to each other. Landscape universes that reflect the landscapes of the soul. We descend and climb the elevations of the earth and the furrows of the faces; we compare the deep furrows of the earth with those of the hands.

We follow the road from the north from the cities leading to the countries, and that from the countries, to the South, depart to get lost in the vast countryside that surrounds them, in a rugged and wild landscape, trafficable only by those who knew him well.

In fact, it is precisely from the humble and “wild” world of the peasants that we have started our way. Throughout this reality, we have discovered places and people, traditions and customs, laws, often iron, but rooted in the minds of the people. We took care of their work in the fields, the primary source for the maintenance of the family, both male and female, as women (despite the apparently secondary role) also had a place of paramount importance.

We have left these places, on foot or by bicycle, perhaps by remedying some passage by truck or car, to arrive in a reality just as “primitive” but true, that of the urban suburbs, or rather the villages, places that like the ancient medieval walls surrounded the cities, and should defend and benefit from them, but which instead very often turn out to be solitary islands.

Here, men and things are bound by very strong bonds, those who were born in those places were forever bound, like trees, to their land. The street becomes in the suburbs the great “mother”, everyone attends it, who to play who to work.

But on the horizon of the villages, often appears the city, huge in its constructions, and it is precisely in that environment that continues our journey.

The city is undoubtedly the environment that has changed most quickly, from the destruction of the war, visible in some memorable films, to the strong reconstruction desired by all...

Leaving the cities, we talked about the characters who “live” and “live” the street. We met certainly original figures, from street vendors fighting for “supremacy”, to street artists who brought their arts through Italy, from the painters of the city streets to the rides of the many amusement parks.

The road will be, during the night, also the undisputed kingdom of prostitutes, important figures for cinema in search of truth.

In the street you can also grow up and play, here are the children, the last part of our work. Small actors of a life made of suffering and difficulty, have entered, thanks to neorealism, bullying on the screens, leaving testimony of their difficult condition... Cinema and literature, images and words, in black and white, have come together to tell the way and his “life”. Piovan, Stephen. 1997-1998.Padova Letters and Philosophy- University of Studies.

Tribute to Pasolini: prophet of the degradation of the landscape “environmental, social & political” Italian

In Pasolini’s works, Italy’s natural and urban landscapes are condensed into evocative descriptions, slow and merciless shots, individual and collective stories.

Pier Paolo Pasolini anticipates the denunciation of the disfigurement of the natural, urban and social landscape determined by the capitalism of consumption and information, monstrous devastating Power.

The cinematic style of Pier Paolo Pasolini manages to describe a sociological and ideological reconstruction representing natural environments and social transformations with the migrations of peasants to factories where they become workers triggering a social, civil and human crisis.

Pasolini documents with a careful linguistic and landscape reconstruction that world, describing work, recreation, friendship, love, sexuality, and, in parallel, peasant struggles, scenes of work in the countryside and factory, tragedies and accidents in the workplace.

It describes corruption, laceration, the violation of the soul of the Italian people. A new form of fascism, perpetuated through the new media and information (especially television).

Pasolini opposes his own “Cultural Resistance of Landscape”, to give examples, think:

  1. To the poems of “The Ashes of Gramsci”: The Apennine (Human the moon from these raggelate stones draws a warmth of high passions).
  2. To the popular song (“A great concert of chisels on the Capitol, on the new Appennine, on the municipalities bleached by the Alps, plays, giantizing the travertine in the new space...”).
  3. On the Roman outskirts of Accattone, Mamma Roma, Birds and Birds

To the film shot by Pasolini for RAI: “The Form of the City”, which begins with a landscape/panoramic view of the city Orte

Finally, to the landscape reconstruction of the peasant world along the banks of the Tagliamento, in the villages of Rosa, Gruaro, Casarsa. A refined connoisseur of the history of art, poet and authentic intellectual, Pasolini recognizes in the history and language of the peoples of Italy, in natural and urban environments witnesses of centuries of life and lives, the richness of our national identity and the bulwark to be opposed to the models imposed by the capitalism of consumption that “dehumanizes” people and things, resets critical skills and imposes “partisan passivity and atrocious aphasia” (The genocide).

And there is also another environment that Pasolini considers indispensable: that of his interlocutor’s eyes. He declares it in the film about the shape of the city (the need to turn to a flesh-and-blood tu and not the anonymous television audience). He affirms this in the “Manifesto for a New Theatre” (1968) in which he proposes a theatre where the text and the actors are in front of the audience, interlocutors who look each other in the eyes to guarantee a real democracy, even scenic.

And thirty-six years after his death, the words of Alessandro Panagulis in A P.P. Pasolini (1975) remain relevant:

... While religions change face

and ideologies become religions

and many wear blinkers again

you didn’t have to leave.

For PaoloPasolini.

Miccichè, Lino.2006. Visconti e il Neorealismo.Ossesione, La Terra Trema,Bellissima. Venezia: Marsilio Editore.


The report investigates the many aspects that have allowed Cinema Italiano to be a constant interlocutor of national culture, highlights the relationship between cinema, landscape and narrative, between landscape and characters, between landscape and gaze, between landscape, environment and culture.

The role that landscape has often had in Italian cinema has been analysed, in order to make it one of the most interesting experiences of the twentieth century. It’s not just about aesthetics, it’s about ethics, culture and nature, all of them connected.

The Italian Cinema through its extraordinary Masters tells us and explains places with archaic landscapes, represented by rivers (the mouth of the Po’), countryside and rugged mountains of the southern regions, of suburbs of big cities such as Rome and Milan. Paths, roads and highways that connect seemingly distant worlds, united by a common destiny. Places of eternal, infinite beauty, the villages of Tuscany, often relegated to an iconographic background, used as pseudo-scenarios, often represented as oleographic frames, surreptitious postcards of interesting works.

Finally, what wins over everything is the extraordinary humanity that is expertly represented by directors and writers. Here the Italian Cinema becomes an extraordinary “place”, a rich and still unmatched “Widespread Anthropological Museum of Italian Identity”; Landscape is not a defined space but a common culture.

Cinema and its “Landscape” tell us that where governments have failed, “life” has been set.

Entire generations of Italians have managed, through cinema, to deliver to history and the whole of Humanity, an extraordinary archive and an immense Intangible Heritage made up of faces, masks, ways of life, traditions, customs and customs of an Italy that has finally become a nation.

Learning to look at the “Landscape” is an important step to get to know ourselves and our world.


Bernardi,Sandro.2002. Venezia. Il Paesaggio nel Cinema Italiano: Marsilio Editore

Saibene, Alberto.2016. Milano. Paesaggio e Cinema:Associazione Culturale Doppio Zero.

Miccichè, Lino.2006. Visconti e il Neorealismo.Ossesione, La Terra Trema,Bellissima. Venezia: Marsilio Editore.

Piovan, Stefano. 1997-1998.Padova Letters and Philosophy- University of Studies.

Giaime, Alonge.2004.Roma.Encyclopedia del Cinema, Treccani.

Vuoso, Ugo.2018. Lecce. Ceic – Campano Ethnographic Center-Institute of Historical and Anthropological Studies siba. University of Salento-.