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Bazin provides a paralleled yet interconnected stance on neorealism in terms
of films by Rossellini and De Sica. The former, whose dexterity is evident from
viewing and perceiving, opposes the latter’s work by a great margin. Rossellini’s
films put the object as an ‘item’ of view in order to blend cinematic romanticism of
life with a realistic depiction of the same (Bazin 70). This is evident from films such
as Paisan (1946), where the six episodes unravel events of Italian campaign of World
War II through a blend of cinematic style and realistic depiction.
In contrast, De Sica‘s quintessential neorealism works such as Bicycle Thieves
(1948) approaches the genre through emotive imagery and guerrilla considerations. A
primary example of this is employing non-professional actors who have had no
experience with the luxury that film actors are accustomed to. In doing so, the director
ensured more realistic and empathetic characters, thus making the audience ‘feel’ the
life and hardships of the characters through sentimental narrative.
Bazin acknowledges the influx of Italian neorealism cinema centring on
depicting World War II on a realistic scale, along with daily hardships of the Italian
working class and other social issues. De Sica’s Umberto D, for instance, has been
considered one of the defining cinematic works that embody the archetypal life post-
World War II. The use of non-professional actors is one of the examples that shape
raisin in the film; it can be said that the actors were merely being themselves rather
than actually acting (Kovács 12).
Another example is the depiction of poverty and the ways an elderly man such
as the titular character can get out of it, such as selling his watch and books. Bazin
notes the complexity of human emotions captured by the character exploring nihilism
and other complex ideologies. His relationship with his dog also exemplifies the
realism of human emotions at times of distress. De Sica strategically aligns Umberto’s
emotional invariability reading life with his dog, which is noted as his primary stable
companion throughout the film.
De Sica’s films have an innate and highly complex relationship with the
reality of life. De Sica notably chooses to employ unprofessional actors, live locations
for shooting instead of studios and simplistic storylines for high sentimental value. In
this regard, these considerations enable his audiences to relate to characters and their
circumstances rather than simply view them from a realistic point of view. In other
words, De Sica compels his audience to want to help or communicate with the
characters (Bazin 62). In this regard, his films mirror real life poetically by imploring
sentiments and enabling realistic deprivation of life.
As per De Sica’s films, this implies that his characters and settings are not
fictitious or far from reality; rather they provide an insight on different life struggles
of a wide range of people. For instance Bicycle Thieves (1948) explores the life of a
father struggling to find a stable livelihood for him and his child while Shoeshine
(1946) explores the life of regular guys who clean shoes for a living.
Works Cited
András Bálint Kovács, ‘Theorizing Modernism,’ in Screening Modernism: European
Art Cinema, 1950-1980 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007).
André Bazin, ‘De Sica: Metteuren Scene’, ‘Umberto D: A Great Work’ in What is
Cinema? Vol. 2; (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1971); p61-79