Introduction to European Studies History, society and cinema in post-war Italy

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Introduction to European Studies

  • History, society and cinema in post-war Italy

Republic of Italy: Facts

  • Official Name

  • Republica Italiana

  • Form of government

  • Republic with two houses: Senate (upper house 322), Chamber of Deputies (lower house 630)

  • Electoral system

  • Proportional representation

  • Chief of state

  • President

Republic of Italy: Facts

  • Area sq. kilometers

  • 1. Russia 3,960,000

  • 2. Ukraine 603,700

  • 3. France 547,030

  • 4. Spain 505,992

  • 5. Sweden 449,964

  • 6. Norway 385,155

  • 7. Germany 357,050

  • 8. Finland 338,145

  • 9. Poland 312,685

  • 10. Italy 301,318

Republic of Italy: Facts

  • GDP 2010 (US Dollars)

  • 1  USA: 14,657,80

  • 2   China: 5,878,28

  • Japan: 5,458,87

  • 4  Germany: 3,315,64

  • 5  France: 2,582,53

  • 6 UK : 2,247,46

  • 7  Brazil: 2,090,31

  • 8 Italy: 2,055,11

  • 9  Canada: 1,574,05

  • 10  India: 1,572,84

Post-war Italian Economy

  • From one of the weakest in Europe to one of the strongest

  • Metallurgical, manufacturing, Chemical and textile industries

  • Tourism

  • Lack of raw materials and energy sources

  • More than 4/5 of energy requirements imported

  • Mixture of liberal trade policies and entrepreneur spirits with cumbersome bureaucracies and inefficient planning

Italian Cultural Economy

  • Motorcars

  • Mass market cars

  • FIAT; Alfa Romeo; Lancia

  • Sports car manufacturers

  • Ferrari; Maserati; Lamborghini

  • Motorcycles

  • Vespa; Piaggio

  • Ducati

Italian Cultural Economy

  • Milan as a fashion centre

  • From craftsmen to celebrity designers

  • From tailors to fashion houses

  • Valentino - founded by Valentino Garavani at Via Condotti, Rome in 1965

  • Armani - founded by Giorgio Armani and Sergio Galeotti in Milan,1975

  • Versace - founded by Gianni Versace in Milan,1978

  • Dolce & Gabbana - founded by Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana in Milan 1985

Italian Cultural Economy

  • Tourism in Italy

  • Geographical advantage

  • The Alps to the north

  • Surrounded by the Mediterranean, the Tyrrhenian, the Ionian and the Adriatic seas

  • From arctic to semi-tropical weather

  • Historical advantage

  • From the Roman Empire, through the Renaissance and the Baroque to the modern

Italian Cultural Economy

  • Ancient and archaeological sites

  • A group of Greek temples in Val di Tempi in Agrigento, Sicily

  • Etruscan remains in Central Italy: Etruscan towns such as Cervetelli and Tarquinia

Italian Cultural Economy

  • Heritage of the Roman Empire

  • Roma as Imperial city

  • Roman resorts such as Pompeii, Islands of Ischia and Capri, and Paestum

  • Civil engineer heritage: towns, Via Appia, aquaduct, theatres and public buildings

Italian Cultural Economy

  • Early Christian and Mediaeval Heritage

  • Churches and monasteries

  • Mosaics in Ravenna

  • Mediaeval towns in Central Italy such as Firenze, Pisa, Siena, Assisi, and Padova

Italian Cultural Economy

  • Renaissance art, architecture and monuments

  • Leonardo’s Last Supper at Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan

  • Basilica of San Pietro in Rome

  • Renaissance cities and towns throughout Italy such as Ferarra and Pienza

Italian Cultural Economy

  • Baroque art, architecture and monuments

  • Many representative palaces and churches in Venice are Baroque build in the 17th century

  • Baroque towns of Noto in Sicily and Lecce, Puglia

Italian Cultural Economy

  • The 18th-century royal palaces and residences

  • The Royal Palace in Torino built for the Savoy Kings

  • The Royal Palace at Caserta built for the Bourbon kings of Naples

Italian Cultural Economy

  • Alpine resorts in the north

  • The Dolomite valley in the north-east and the Aosta valley in the north-west

  • Numerous sea-side resorts on the mainland and islands

Modern Italian Culture

  • Modern Italian Art

  • Amadeo Modigliani (1884-1920) - a painter and sculptor inspired by primitive art

  • Giorgio de Chirico (1888-1978) - pre-surrealist, known for metaphysical painting

Modern Italian Culture

  • Musicians - pianists, violinists, conductors, composers of classical music

  • Opera singers

  • Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

  • Luciano Pavarotti (1935-2007)

Alberto Moravia (1907-90), Primo Levi (1919-1987), Italo Calvino (1923-85), Umberto Eco (1932- )

Modern Italian Culture

  • One of the greatest sporting nations in the world

  • Football - World champion four times (1934, 1938, 1982, 2006) Germany (3), England (1), France (1), Brazil (5)

  • Cycling - National Sports: Giro d’Italia

Modern Italian Culture

  • Motor Sports

  • Formula 1: Team Ferrari

  • Motorcycle races

  • Winter sports - alpine skiing

Modern Italian Culture

  • Design houses: furniture, interior and kitchenware

  • Traditional design and craft: leather, paper, woodwork, stonework, porcelain

The War

  • Domination of the fascists in Benito Mussolini’s regime

  • Long, bloody conflicts between fascists (fascista) and resistant (partegiano)

The End of the War

  • Europe in Ruins: Over 35,000,000 dead

The End of the War

  • Severe material restrictions / dire economic situation / desperate financial situation

  • Social Problems

  • Unemployment, poverty, high inflation, political instability, social conflicts

The End of the War

  • Italy’s indigenous and traditional problems

  • Economic exploitation and social injustice: land owning ruling classes and industrialists vs peasants and working classes

  • Geographical divide - industrial north and agricultural south (mezzogiorno)

  • Political corruption


Two Vital Times for Italian Cinema

  • Cultural freedom and new burst of creativity


  • Immediately after the war till the beginning of the 50s: films reflecting the realities of contemporary Italy

  • From the end of the fifties to around 1964: films looking at the past and present of Italy

Filmmaking in the Wake of the War

  • The First Golden Age

  • Three interlocking groups of filmmakers

  • 1. Those associated with the Communist

  • Resistance - Luchino Visconti, Michelangelo

  • Antonioni, Puccini brothers, Giuseppe di

  • Santis

  • 2. Roberto Rossellini and Federico Fellini

  • 3. Vittorio de Sica and Cesare Zavattini

  • They all started making movies just before or just after the end of the war.

Filmmaking in the Wake of the War

  • All the works of these filmmakers were response to the terrible moments of Italy’s modern history

  • Fascism and the Resistance

  • The scar of the war

  • Poverty and unemployment after the war

  • Economic exploitation and social injustice

  • Political corruption

  • South and north divide

  • Something still found in prosperous and affluent contemporary Italy

Roberto Rossellini

  • Roma, Citta Aperta (1945)

  • A documentary-like fiction film about the struggle of resistance fighters and their families against the occupying German forces.

Roberto Rossellini

  • Paisa (1946)

  • The film consists of six episodes, which traces the liberation of Italy by the Allies from the landing of the Allied in Sicily through victories in central Italy to the final fall down of the Nazi occupation.

Luchino Visconti

  • La Terra Trema (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. However, they lose everything in a storm and have to get their house repossed by a bank.

Luchino Visconti

  • Rocco e suoi fratelli (1960) - it tells a story of a family which comes to industrial Milan to escape the poverty stricken South but gradually disintegrate in the large, modern city.

Vittori De Sica

  • Ladri di Biciclette (Bicycle Thieves, 1948)

  • A drama about a father and a son who are searching their bicycle, which is stolen on the first day of work after being out of work for two years.

Vittorio De Sica

  • Umberto D (1952)

  • About a retired civil servant desperately trying to maintain the decent standard of living on dwindling state pension in the midst of crazy post-war inflation.

  • 16% in 1949

Giuseppe di Santis

  • Rise Amaro (Bitter rice, 1949) - two criminals take refuge in a rice farm in the north which employs a large number of immigrant workers from the south. Adulterous love, robbery and murder take place in the farm.

Pietro Germi

  • Il Ferroviere (The Railroad Man, 1956) - a hardworking engine driver who loves his family involves railway accident and is suspended from driving engine. His life is in near ruin but he tries to prove his innocence.

Federico Fellini

  • I Vitelloni (1953)

  • About five young friends from a local seafront town, Rimini, desperately trying to find the aim of living. Some are desperately trying to leave the sleepy provincial town for large cities.

Federico Fellini

  • La Strada (1954)

  • Story about a carnival strongman Zanpano and his simple minded assistant Gelsomina, who are travelling around poverty stricken areas of Italy.

The Vital Time for Italy and Italian Cinema

  • Generally labeled and known as Neo-realism.


  • In the process they changed the entire rule of movie making

  • Subject matter - contemporary social problems

  • Film Style - location shooting, non-professional actors, simple technique

Essay Title

  • Watch one Italian film or one film about Italy and describe what aspects of the post-war Italian society is reflected in it.

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