Condottieri and Scipione l’Africano, both released in 1937, are epic movies that celebrated famous historical figures and events by indirectly connecting them with the rise and consolidation of Fascism. Luis Trenker’s Condottieri follows the life of Giovanni de Medici, who in the sixteenth century was the leader of a band of mercenaries which fought to unite Italy. Gallone’s Scipione l’Africano narrates the events of the battle of Zama (202 BC), which took place south of Carthage (in contemporary Tunisia). At Zama, the Roman general Scipio defeated Hannibal’s army, annexing Carthage and giving free rein to Roman colonial aspirations in the Mediterranean.
The Sacralisation of the New Man’s Total Politics through the Arts
Shaping the New Man’s Reality by Fashioning National Myths
Monumentalism: Visualising Subjectivity and Objectivity
These famous epic films reveal how Fascism sought to rewrite the past according to an eschatological path portrayed as culminating in the Ventennio. In Condottieri, the director Luis Trenker played the main character Giovanni de’ Medici, also known as Giovanni delle Bande Nere, who was the son of Caterina de’ Medici. Giovanni is very different to the unscrupulous and despotic members of the Medici family, and he struggles to amend past injustices the Medici committed in Florence. His virtuous attempt to unite Italy is made together with the Bande Nere, his comrades whose name and ethos directly recall the rise of Fascism and the camicie nere. Indeed, Giovanni is portrayed as the precursor of the New Man, an incarnation of the values that inspired Fascism’s leader Mussolini.
Scipione l’Africano also celebrates the timelessness of Fascist values, epitomizing how Fascist culture manipulated the past to give a historical foundation to its myths. Focussing on the figure of Scipio, Gallone metaphorically reworked the history of Roman expansionism in the Mediterranean as the origin of Fascist imperial ambitions. Such a process of re-mapping history assumes also a spatial dimension insofar as the film was not filmed on the African soil but in the Pontine Marshes, the swampy area that had been reclaimed by the Fascist regime for internal colonization, urbanization and agricultural development. Therefore, both Scipione l’africano and Condottieri consciously entangle the temporal and spatial coordinates of national history within a long imperial tradition. The aim was to transform every single citizen into a member of the Fascist state: by watching these films, Italians could acknowledge a long tradition inscribed in their genes that was fulfilled by the advent of Fascism.
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Caprotti, Federico. 2008. ‘Scipio Africanus: Film, Internal Colonization, and Empire.’ Cultural Geographies 16: 381-401.
Ricci, Steven. 2008. Cinema and Fascism. Italian Film and Society, 1922–1943. Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press.
Tamis-Nasello, Annemarie. 2013. ‘Re-Imagining the Colonial Landscape: Notions of Faith, Healing, and Prestige in Goffredo Alessandrini’s Abuna Messias.’ Italica 90 (3): 473-481.
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