Neorealism – Definition & Detailed Explanation – Film History Glossary Terms

I. What is Neorealism?

Neorealism, also known as Italian Neorealism, is a film movement that emerged in Italy in the aftermath of World War II. It is characterized by a focus on realistic portrayals of everyday life, often using non-professional actors and shooting on location rather than in studios. Neorealist films typically address social issues and explore the struggles of ordinary people in post-war Italy.

II. Origins of Neorealism

Neorealism emerged in Italy in the 1940s as a response to the political and social upheaval caused by World War II. The movement was influenced by the documentary style of filmmaking that had developed during the war, as well as by the desire to create a cinema that reflected the harsh realities of post-war Italy.

One of the key precursors to Neorealism was the film “Ossessione” (1943) directed by Luchino Visconti, which is often considered the first Neorealist film. The movement truly came into its own with the release of Roberto Rossellini’s “Rome, Open City” (1945), which is widely regarded as a seminal work of Neorealism.

III. Key Characteristics of Neorealism

Some of the key characteristics of Neorealism include:

1. Realism: Neorealist films strive for a sense of authenticity and realism, often using non-professional actors and shooting on location to create a sense of immediacy and intimacy.

2. Social Issues: Neorealist films often address social issues such as poverty, unemployment, and the struggles of ordinary people in post-war Italy. These films seek to shed light on the harsh realities of life for many Italians at the time.

3. Everyday Life: Neorealist films focus on the lives of ordinary people, often depicting the struggles and triumphs of characters who are not typically seen in mainstream cinema.

4. Location Shooting: Neorealist filmmakers eschew studio sets in favor of shooting on location, which adds to the sense of realism and authenticity in their films.

IV. Major Neorealist Filmmakers

Some of the major Neorealist filmmakers include:

1. Roberto Rossellini: Considered one of the founding figures of Neorealism, Rossellini’s films such as “Rome, Open City” and “Paisan” are seminal works of the movement.

2. Vittorio De Sica: Another key figure in Neorealism, De Sica directed films such as “Bicycle Thieves” and “Umberto D.” which are considered classics of the genre.

3. Luchino Visconti: While Visconti’s work is not always considered strictly Neorealist, his early film “Ossessione” is often cited as a precursor to the movement.

V. Impact and Legacy of Neorealism

Neorealism had a profound impact on the history of cinema, influencing filmmakers around the world and shaping the development of new cinematic movements. The emphasis on realism and social issues in Neorealist films paved the way for the rise of other realist movements such as the French New Wave and the Iranian New Wave.

Neorealism also had a lasting impact on Italian cinema, influencing filmmakers such as Federico Fellini and Michelangelo Antonioni. The movement’s focus on everyday life and social issues continues to resonate with audiences today, making Neorealism a lasting and important part of film history.

VI. Neorealism in Contemporary Cinema

While Neorealism as a distinct movement may have faded, its influence can still be seen in contemporary cinema. Filmmakers such as the Dardenne brothers and Ken Loach have been influenced by the realism and social consciousness of Neorealism in their work.

Additionally, the legacy of Neorealism can be seen in the continued interest in stories of everyday people and social issues in cinema. The spirit of Neorealism lives on in films that seek to shed light on the struggles of ordinary people and explore the complexities of the human experience.

In conclusion, Neorealism remains a vital and influential movement in the history of cinema, with its emphasis on realism, social issues, and everyday life continuing to resonate with audiences and filmmakers alike.