A child sees a white horse wandering alone across the city streets, the sky of the city of Milan is dotted with flying bicycles, a man admires a beautiful woman bathing in the Trevi Fountain in Rome.
The cinema critics define the films made in-between the two World Wars, and afterward, as Neorealist; the term signifies a will to describe reality as it is, even when it’s ugly, even when it’s painful and harsh.
During the dictatorship of Mussolini the majority of films produced showed a prosperous and blissful country, full of rich homes and well-dressed people, but it was a lie. Directors and writers such as Roberto Rossellini, Vittorio De Sica and, later, Fedrico Fellini decide that the world needed to witness the truth. So they literally walked down the streets of Rome and Milan with their cameras and began to search for the real people and their true stories. And that is how the Italian Neorealist Cinema was born.
Neorealist movies tell simple stories of real people: a priest and an engineer fighting against the Nazis and Fascists (“Rome, Open City”); a man searching all over the city for his stolen bike, because he needs it desperately in order to get to work (“Bicyle Thieves”); homeless kids cleaning shoes in order to survive a post-war reality (“Sciuscià”). Small people. True stories. A camera that portrays destruction and poverty without any filter.
Regardless, imagination plays an important role in these movies. The directors and writers never forget that they are, before everything else, creators; this is true, in particular, for filmmakers such as De Sica and Fellini. In “Sciscià” a white horse appears almost out of nowhere and carries the homeless kids away from pain and destruction. In “La Dolce Vita”, the protagonist despises a middle-class focused solely on the futile pleasures after years of war and hunger, but the moment he sees a beautiful and daring woman bathing in the Fountain of Trevi, he forgets about hating his reality and he just admires the simple beauty of life.
It is true that portraying a cruel reality is the main purpose of the Neorealist films, but it is also true that those movies recognize how important imagination is, how fundamental it is to never stop dreaming and creating when everything around us is falling apart and crumbling down.
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