Neorealism and the Future of Humanity

Roberto Rossellini, Rome Open City (1945)

During the early stages of the “pandemic” and the ensuing global lockdowns, I spent serious time in my apartment unsure of exactly what the hell was going on. I did a lot of reading and self-examination. I also started watching movies, particularly films made prior to the 1960s. It was at that time that I rediscovered Italian neorealism, a landmark in cinematic history that took place from 1942 to 1954.

Also known as the Golden Age, Italian neorealism was a national film movement characterized by narratives set amongst the poor and the working class. They were filmed on location in Italy, frequently with nonprofessional actors. With the physical backdrop of war-torn buildings already in place, neorealistic films primarily addressed the grim economic and moral conditions of post-World War II Italy and reflected the evolving changes in the Italian psyche and conditions of everyday life that included poverty, oppression, corruption, greed, desperation, compliance, injustice, and heroic acts of courage.

I had seen films like Bicycle Thieves, Shoeshine, and Rome Open City in the late 1970s, a time when frequenting Manhattan’s East Village underground nightclubs and art house cinemas were part of the downtown dating scene. Having grown up a safe distance from the ravages and effects of the Second World War, I viewed these films as artful and interesting. I also remember thinking, quite naively, that this was the kind of stuff that happened in places like Italy, Germany, and Poland, something that, in a million years, could never happen in the good old USA, the land of the freaks, home of the brave.

As I watch these films today, I’m floored. I believe they are more relevant now than ever. Not only are they great, innovative works of art and masterpieces in every aspect of filmmaking, they are powerful historical documents that offer a sobering glimpse of just how fragile we are as a species. They also provide insight into what happens when we allow satanic forces of evil to invade the human spirit and destroy our sense of humanity like a metastasizing cancer.

During WWII there were no shortages of Nazi collaborators in Italy, France, and other countries. These were compliant members of society willing to betray their own compatriots and forfeit their personal and national sovereignty to a seemingly more powerful authority.

Sadly, this is exactly what we are experiencing today—armies of US citizens willingly handing over their land, well-being, and personal autonomy to a faceless and soulless cabal of unaccountable global elites whom nobody elected. The only difference is that in our current state of affairs, totalitarian control is achieved via technology and implemented in methodical, incremental stages.

Case in point: In December 2001, we were told that some schmuck (dubbed the “shoe bomber”) attempted to detonate explosives packed in his shoes while on a flight between Paris and Miami. Now here we are, twenty-three plus years later, witnessing supposedly autonomous adults, obediently taking off their shoes and submitting to body searches at airport check-ins, acting as if this behavior is as natural as breathing. As we rollercoaster into 2024, the innovative minds at Transportation Security Administration (TSA) are introducing an even more grotesque and humiliating method of zapping us out of existence. Unsurprisingly, their latest airport security chokehold was met by a receptive and dutiful flock of travelers thirsty for convenience, ready, willing, and able to drink the Kool-Aid.

Meanwhile, a few thousand miles away in Davos, Switzerland, a collection of power-hungry international gangsters are getting set to roll out a worldwide, digital ID track-and-trace biosecurity surveillance state that threatens to enslave us and end our rights as sovereign human beings. All this under the guise of protecting us.

How Quickly Things Changed

In the early 1950s, Italian neorealism was starting to fade from the silver screens. Not the indelible style of filmmaking that defined cinema for the decades to follow, but themes that centered around Italy’s struggles to resist and survive rampant fascism.

With economic incentives from political and business leaders in the United States who were salivating at the prospect of tapping into new commercial markets, European countries were focused on rebuilding their economies. Influenced by and enamored of America’s ingenuity and can-do spirit (not to mention the ahh . . . additional incentive the USA generously furnished by dropping not one, but two atomic bombs on Japanese cities, killing tens of thousands of people) foreign governments began to view neorealism as a deficit. They thought it would cast Europe in an unfavorable light and discourage tourism and trade. As a result, many of the great film directors from that period like Vittorio De Sica, Roberto Rossellini, and Luchino Visconti veered toward more commercialized, Hollywood-type films that appealed to new audiences exhausted from the war.

For people unfamiliar with Italian neorealism and its depiction of this dramatic and turbulent period in the mid-twentieth century, these films are a treasure trove of historical information; powerful true-to-life snapshots of the human condition in its most rare, depraved, and graphic form. They are the blueprints for the chaos and violence we are witnessing in cities around the world today and a clear warning of what we might expect if we, as a civilization, don’t collectively take action to reverse course.

Below is a short list of a few top neorealistic films from the Golden Age:

Rome Open City (1945), directed by Roberto Rossellini
Bicycle Thieves (1948), directed by Vittorio De Sica
Germany, Year Zero (1948), directed by Roberto Rossellini
La Terra Trema (1948) (The Earth Trembles), directed by Luchino Visconti
Il Cammino della Speranza (1950) (The Path of Hope), directed by Pietro Germi
Umberto D (1952), directed by Vittorio De Sica
Note: DeSica’s Umberto D is arguably one of the greatest dramatic films ever made. Carlo Battisti, who played Umberto Domenico Ferrari, the main character, was a college professor in real life and taught Italian linguistics. Umberto D was his first and last acting role.

John Califano