Alessandro Blasetti, Quattro passi tra le nuvole (1942)

Luchino Visconti, Ossessione (1943)

Vittorio De Sica, I bambini ci guardano (1943)


Blasetti’s Quattro passi tra le nuvole features the story of Maria, an unmarried pregnant girl who is trying to avoid the moral as well as material disgrace caused by social disapproval of her situation. She persuades Paolo, a married man, to act as her husband in a meeting with her family. Paolo gives up on the pretence, but he convinces Maria’s father to let her stay at home. Ossessione by Luchino Visconti is about the young tramp Gino who has a love affair with Giovanna, the wife of the owner of a gas station. Gino and Giovanna kill her husband Giuseppe, but this murder leads to a series of events that ruin the life of the couple. The harmful dissolution of a family is also the backdrop of I bambini ci guardano: the film is about the difficult life of Pricò, a child who is abandoned by his mother for a lover.

Main Principles

  1. The Legitimization of the Artist/Intellectual's Participation in the Public Sphere

  2. The Role of Cosmopolitanism in the Modernization of the Italian Artistic Field

  3. Citizen’s Media Manipulation: Entertainment, Escapism and Consensus


All these films introduced stylistic and narrative innovations that would become the foundations of of neorealist cinema. They are regarded as the pioneers of this genre in that they manifest an evident break with both Fascist-sponsored films and with the escapist movies of which the telefoni bianchi are exemplary. As essential traits, these pre-neorealist films feature de-dramatised narratives and a severe style; they are shot on location instead of in professional studios; they use non-professional actors; the topics revolve more or less directly around the troubled situation of working-class Italians during and in the immediate aftermath of the WWII.

Visconti’s Ossessione draws on a cronaca nera plot conveyed through a simple yet dark style that is at odds with the polished format of Fascist-approved cinema. I bambini ci guardano, addressing the dramatic crumbling of a marriage through the eyes of a child, can also be seen as a critical review to fascist values and styles. The dramatic close-up scenes in which Pricò cries are a painful portrait not simply of the drama of a family break-up that destroys his childhood innocence: they epitomise the violent awakening of Italy from its fascist slumber due to the Second World War. The end of Quattro passi tra le nuvole is exemplary in questioning the positive impact of Fascism in the Italian society: as soon as Paolo has persuaded Maria’s father that she needs to be protected and helped, he goes back to his normal and even boring family life, which is a far cry from the exciting portrait of the middle classes conveyed in fascist-supported films. As a whole, these three films shed a powerful light on the upheaval of the war/post-war period, showing the more direct and dramatic effects of the failure of the totalitarian revolution and paving the way for a widespread aesthetic as well as political critique of fascism.


Bondanella, Peter. 2001. Italian Cinema: From Neorealism to the Present. London: Bloomsbury.

Brunetta, Gian Piero. 1993. Storia del cinema italiano, Vol. III: Dal neorealismo al miracolo economico 1945-1959. Rome: Editori Riuniti.

Miccichè, Lino. 1990. Visconti e il neorealismo. Venice: Marsilio.

Wagstaff, Christopher. 2007. Italian Neorealist Cinema: An Aesthetic Approach. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Gianmarco Mancosu