What is Neorealism? What is Cinema?

What is neorealism?

I can't even begin to stress how much I love this following video created by kogonada for Sight & Sound magazine in which he takes on the question "What is neorealism?" by comparing Vittorio De Sica's Terminal Station and David O. Selznick's Indiscretion of an American Wife, which some may describe as the same film, but as this video points out, they most certainly are not.

Released in Italy in 1953 as Terminal Station at 90 minutes in length, producer David O. Selznick cut it down to 63 minutes before releasing it as Indiscretion of an American Wife in 1954. Starring Jennifer Jones and Montgomery Clift, the story focuses on a married American woman attempting to break off an affair with a young Italian before leaving Rome by train.

The focus of the piece by kogonada are primarily the "in-between moments" and how Selznick's cut seems to insist "time and place are more critical than plot or story". He illustrates how De Sica's editing allows the image to linger where Selznick wishes to maintain focus on the film's lead character and how at the film's outset he's impatient and rushes to give the audience as much information as possible as quickly as possible.

This isn't to say a film must be slow to be good, but how much richer it becomes when extras aren't looked as extras, but necessities in the world the film presents.

The video runs less than five minutes long and I urge you to watch the entire thing. It's incredibly rewarding.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/DiscoPaco/ Disco Paco

    Amazing. Thanks. It's posts like these why I keep coming back to RoS. Even though they don't "get them clicks" you are fighting the good fight.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/36crazyfists/ 36crazyfists

    Great work !

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/JayRam/ JayRam

    So, we can assume that since neorealism relied heavily on both shooting on real locations and employing a large number of non-actors--which lets the film appear to be true-to-life--that by using less cuts, allowing the scenes to carry on and giving us the chance to absorb the world, only adds to that authenticity?

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/ Brad Brevet

      I believe so, yes, even if we don't realize why we feel that authenticity. But on top of that, I think just allowing a take to last a little longer in some instances, allowing the people around a central character to react to their being there and then suddenly not also adds to that authenticity. A character is not only what we perceive them to be, but also how they affect the world around them and how that world responds don't you think?

      I know in doing my Paused articles there have been several times where I wished a scene went just a little longer, or lingered on a character just a little longer. I remember William Friedkin's The Exorcist as a specific example, especially the second to last shot on this page.

  • http://www.twitter.com/GregDinskisk GregDinskisk

    Thanks for this post, Brad! It's a very interesting essay, even for someone who knows next to nothing about Italian Neorealism. If I was to get into those types of films, would this (these?) film/s be a good starting place? If not, where would be?

    • http://letterboxd.com/criterion10/ Criterion10

      The Bicycle Thief, also by Vittorio De Sica, is considered to be one of the staples of Italian Neorealism. That's probably a pretty good starting place. I remember liking the film very much myself.

      • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Hudsucker/ Hudsucker

        It's my favorite of all time.

      • http://www.twitter.com/GregDinskisk GregDinskisk

        Alright, thanks! I'll check it out soon!

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/HarryFuertes/ Harry Fuertes


  • http://villings.tumblr.com Ariel Villings

    Thanks for this video!

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/austinjoel/ austinjoel

    Really enjoyed this.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/AdamsLostApple/ AdamsLostApple

    That's a fascinating clip. Reading that whole series in a book/essay on cinema wouldn't have the same effect. One has to actually see it in place to get full understanding.

  • http://cineenuruguay.blogspot.com/ Driver

    This is one great video, thanks for sharing it.

  • Joseph Bridges

    This is what makes Vimeo way better than Youtube. Vimeo is people crafting a piece while Youtube captures a moment.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/RV/ Roland

    These days I see so many Hollywood movies that I sometimes forget that completely different visual grammars exist out there. It feels good to be reminded of their existence. It's liberating for the mind. Thanks for this beautiful post!!!

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/andyluvsfilms/ andyluvsfilms

    that was really interesting, thank you Brad

  • ljdean

    Fascinating. Thanx.

  • Matt P

    That was really great! I want to seek out more of these :)

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Xarnis/ Xarnis

    This was very intriguing. Thanks for sharing, Brad.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Django/ Django

    Excellent video. It was interesting to see the films side by side and how they differed in pace and content.