Italian film screening

Exploring some of the themes touched upon in the work of Margaret Salmon, Witte de With screens two Italian film masterpieces: Rome Open City (1946) by Roberto Rossellini, followed by Una giornata particolare (1977) by Ettore Scola.

`Italian films are first and foremost reconstituted reportage. The action could not unfold in just any social context, historically neutral, partly abstract like the setting of a tragedy, as so frequently happens with the American, French, or English cinema. As a result, the Italian films have an exceptionally documentary quality that could not be removed from the script without thereby eliminating the whole social setting into which its roots are so deeply sunk. This perfect and natural adherence to actuality is explained and justified from within by a spiritual attachment to the period. Undoubtedly, the tide of recent Italian history cannot be reversed. Thus, the war is felt to be not an interlude but the end of an era.´

So wrote André Bazin in the late 1940´s, in his seminal essay on Italian neorealist cinema*. The two films to be screened at Witte de With are set prior to and during the Second World War. They explore the effects of fascism on the Italian population, seen through the eyes of two mothers. The symbol of the mother in Italian culture is of great interest to Margaret Salmon, who traveled to Italy for a six?month residency during which time she made Ninna Nanna, her triptych of young mothers and their babies, on show at Witte de With.

In addition to drawing upon certain thematics of Italian cinema, Salmon is also inspired by the stylistic and technical innovations of the neorealists. In the aforementioned essay, Bazin focused on their films´ seeming objectivity and highlighted their use of natural light, of the handheld camera and the absence of constructed sets. Most films of the neorealist school were set in existing domestic interiors, often using non/professional actors. Rossellini´s Rome Open City is seen as the epitome of this movement and whilst Scola´s Una giornata particolare was made some years later, it also maintains many of the movement´s conventions.


Margaret Salmon’s exhibition will stay open until 7 p.m. to enable you to visit the show immediately prior to the screening. The exhibition is normally open 11 a.m. – 6 p.m., Tuesday to Sunday, until 19 August 2007.

  • The text “An Aesthetic of Reality: Neorealism” is taken from What is Cinema? by Andre Bazin, Volume 2. University of California Press, LTD. London, England, 1971/2005. It is reprinted in Margaret Salmon, WdW Publishers, 2007.


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