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Tragedia all’italiana

Italian Cinema and Italian Terrorisms, 1970-2010


Alan O'Leary

Cinema has played a key role in articulating the impact and legacies of the so-called anni di piombo in Italy, the years of intra-national political terrorism that lasted from 1969 until well into the 1980s. Tragedia all’italiana offers an analytical exploration of Italian cinema’s representation and refraction of those years, showing how a substantial and still growing corpus of films has shaped the ways in which Italians have assimilated and remembered the events of this period.
This is the first monograph in English on terrorism and film in Italy, a topic that is attracting the interest of a wide range of scholars of film, cultural studies and critical terrorism studies. It provides novel analytical categories for an intriguing corpus of films and offers careful accounts of works and genres as diverse as La meglio gioventú, Buongiorno, notte, the poliziottesco (cop film) and the commedia all’italiana. The author argues that fiction film can provide an effective frame for the elaboration of historical experience but that the cinema is symptomatic both of its time and of the codes of the medium itself – in terms of its elisions, omissions and evasions as well as its emphases. The book is a study of a body of films that has elaborated the experience of terrorism as a fascinating and even essential part of the heritage of modern Italy.


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CHAPTER 3 Filming Stragismo 79


Chapter 3 Filming Stragismo Right-wing terrorism was more random, and more devastating in terms of number of victims than that practiced by the left during the anni di piombo. Extrapolating from figures related to terrorist activity collected by Donatella della Porta, Tardi (2005: 15) has calculated that 56 per cent of terrorist incidents, 60 per cent of deaths and 75 per cent of injuries between 1969 and 1982 were attributable to right-wing terrorism. Despite this, the majority of the films that represent the terrorism of the anni di piombo are concerned, in one way or another, with left-wing terrorism. Indeed, certain commentators have implied that discourse about left-wing terrorism, including film, has helped to demonize the Italian left and to caricature mass leftist aspiration and protest in the 1970s, both by reduc- ing it to the minority option of the armed struggle and by disguising the scale of right-wing terrorism and covert state support for it (Behan 2006). But the reasons that a majority of films, at any rate, deal with left-wing and not right-wing terrorism are complex, and worth considering brief ly here. Certainly they are not reducible to a deliberate – or unwitting – abuse of memory for the political ends of the present. In chapter 6 I discuss the attitude of impegno – that is, social or politi- cal commitment in the arts and other intellectual activity – something associated with the left in the First Republic. One ‘dimension’ of impegno is that of the appeal to a constituency: the attempt...

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