La nuova colonia and I giganti della montagna are two of the three plays of the late Pirandellian production, called ‘teatro dei miti’ (the third one is Lazzaro, performed in 1929). La nuova colonia was written in 1926 and performed for the first time in 1928 at Teatro Argentina, Rome, directed by Pirandello himself. The play stages the unsuccessful attempt of a group of social outcasts to create a new society, free and more just, on a desert island. Currao and La Spera, a former prostitute, lead this social experiment. The life of the community is disrupted by the arrival of Padron Nocio with another group of people. When these try to take La Spera’s child from her, subverting the natural order of things, the ocean takes revenge and swallows the island, leaving only La Spera and her child alive. I giganti della montagna is an unfinished tragedy written between 1931 and 1933, which was only performed in 1937, after Pirandello’s death, having been completed by his son Stefano. The play is set at Villa degli Scalognati (which translates as ‘villa of the unlucky’), a dilapidated villa in the mountains, where a community of misfits and strange characters has settled. An itinerant theatre company, led by Ilse, arrives at the Villa, ready to perform the play La favola del figlio cambiato (a play written by Pirandello himself), which was rejected by other theatres. Cotrone, leader of the community, invites her to perform the play for them; but she refuses as she wants to perform it for the ‘real world’, to make people aware of the beauty of art. Cotrone then suggests they go to the powerful mountain giants ('i giganti della montagna'), but they are not interested in art as they are engaged in ‘enormous enterprises’ of technological innovation, and they only care about material needs. The play is finally performed for the ‘people’, represented by the servants and workmen employed by the giants to build their projects; however, they are not used to art and do not understand it, they react angrily and end up killing the actors.
The ‘arte di Stato’: Modernity and Modernization
The Boundaries of Realism: Constructing Collective Subjectivities
In the last phase of his production, Pirandello turns to ‘myths’ as sources for artistic inspiration, a medium for the quest of knowledge and self-awareness, as well as cultural manifestations of the collective unconscious. The theatre of myths posits that the ancient culture linked to the Greek myths, and the study of archetypes of individual and collective behaviour, can generate answers to the problems of modernity and contemporary society. Pirandello was ultimately tormented by the problems and conflicts of human society, and could not escape into aestheticism or solipsism. For him, theatre was the ‘truth of the drama that the characters carry within themselves, the moral situation in which they are caught, the conflicts that tear them’ (Chiaromonte 1976, 137).
Pirandello thus used myths to continue his efforts of deconstruction of ‘reality’ and of individual and collective life, and unearth truths about humanity. For this reason, Pirandello’s myths are different from the nationalistic, indisputable and unwavering myths built by the regime, also through artworks (e.g. Mario Sironi, or propaganda theatre); they are ambiguous, and the ‘truths’ they lead to are duplicitous and partial (see Santuccio 2008). In particular, in the trilogy of myths Pirandello has sought to reveal truths about men, in the socio-political (La nuova colonia), religious (Lazzaro), and artistic (I giganti della montagna) spheres. He engenders new mythical mechanisms that alter the relationship with reality, developing some central themes such as the radical choice of self-exclusion of the individual; the fusion with nature, through the return to the myth of Mother-Earth; and escapism to a mythical-fantastic sphere. The result is a set of plays of great complexity, which tend towards an alternative ideological and moral edification, and aim to convey a set of values, which represent a full expression of an awareness of the present and its predicaments.
La nuova colonia is, in Pirandello’s intentions, a ‘social myth’ based on the ideals of egalitarianism and human solidarity, which can be squashed by the distorting tendencies of social impositions, like competition and conflict for the conquest of power. The former prostitute La Spera is a key character who embodies both the principle of evangelical charity, finding and realizing herself in the act of serving the community, and the maternal archetype, which transcends into the myth of the Mother Earth. The survival of La Spera and her child when the island is destroyed give the play a positive and hopeful message; the destruction engendered by nature makes way for a new beginning. I giganti della montagna is the ‘myth of art’, in which Pirandello reflects upon the place and value of art in modern society. The Villa degli Scalognati is a space of pure imagination, dreams and fantasies. Ilde’s insistence on performing the play for a wider audience represents art’s need to reach out to an audience, and be meaningful for society. However, her death symbolizes the impossibility of art’s survival in a materialistic world, the land of the Giants. The Giants represent the destructive forces of materialism annihilating spirituality, and it has been suggested that they are an allegory of the regime, channelling Pirandello’s disillusionment with fascism during the last phase of his artistic production and of his life. Certainly, the play reaffirms the right to freedom and to autonomy of the arts, which Pirandello had always upheld, reconciling it with his support for Fascism.
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