Vecchia Guardia is one of the few films made during the regime which is concerned with Fascism’s own history and foundational myths. The film is set in a small Italian town in 1922, where a local group of fascist camicie nere (blackshirts) led by Roberto Cardini battle against rival socialists who have called a strike at the local hospital. Mario, Roberto’s younger brother, is killed in the fighting. The film ends with the March on Rome that brought Benito Mussolini to power.
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
Director Alessandro Blasetti was a devoted member of the Fascist party who proudly displayed his party badge at every opportunity. In Vecchia guardia, he uses several violent and aggressive action scenes to condemn both the socialist threat and the bourgeois way of life. The sacrifice of Mario, a teenager who wants to emulate his older blackshirt brother, serves to construct a new Fascist temporality which could renew Italy against the degenerate periods of capitalism and Socialism. Before his death, Mario was working on the construction of a clock which features several Fascist elements: the clock face is framed by Fascist banners topped by the fascio littorio and its pendulum is similar to a manganello (truncheon), the favourite weapon of the camicie nere. The link between Mario and the Fascist clock suggests that his sacrifice strikes the time for the Fascist revolution. Accordingly, Vecchia Guardia is a story of origins in which the characters and the plot are clearly meant to represent Fascism’s genesis and its renovating force, which is able to give an eschatological nuance to Mario’s death.
Toward the end of the film, a very short scene shows Mario returning after his death in a peculiar spectral form: Mario’s ghost encourages his father to join the March on Rome and then he disappears giving one final Roman salute. Mario turns out to be the first Fascist martyr whose sacrifice indicates the inescapability of the Fascist revolution. Life, revolution, violence, and sacrifice overlap in a dramatic aestheticization that reaches its climax in the scenes of Mario’s death, which is presented not as the end of the individual life, but the beginning of a collective palingenesis. This communion of Fascist saints embracing the living and the dead stands clear in one of the last frames of the film, in which a superimposed intertitle states ‘insieme ai vivi marciavano i morti, che all’appello del duce eran tutti risorti’. The mystical body of the organic State) is thus able to overcome individual differences insofar as it blurs the boundaries between life and death and between private and public spheres.
Brunetta,Gian Piero. 2009. The History of Italian Cinema: A Guide to Italian Film from Its Origins to the Twenty-first Century. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Griffin,Roger. 1991. The Nature of Fascism. London and New York: Routledge.
Spackman, Barbara. 2001. ‘Fascist Puerility.’ Qui Parle 13 (1): 13-28.