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New Visions of the Child in Italian Cinema

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Edited By Danielle Hipkins and Roger Pitt

The figure of the child has long been a mainstay of Italian cinema, conventionally interpreted as a witness of adult shortcomings, a vessel of innocence, hope and renewal, or an avatar of nostalgia for the (cinematic) past. New Visions of the Child in Italian Cinema challenges these settled categories of interpretation and reconsiders the Italian canon as it relates to the child. The book draws on a growing body of new work in the history and theory of children on film and is the first volume to bring together and to apply some of these new approaches to Italian cinema. Chapters in the book address aspects of industry and spectatorship and the varied film psychology of infancy, childhood and adolescence, as well as genres as diverse as silent cinema, contemporary teen movies, melodrama and film ethnography. The contributors engage with a wide range of modes and theories including neorealism, auteurism and contemporary postfeminism. The book maps out new roles for gender, the transnational, loss and mourning, and filmmaking itself, leading to a revised understanding of the child in Italian cinema.
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‘È difficile didentare grandi in Italia!’ The Trauma of Becoming in Nanni Moretti’s La stanza del figlio

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ROGER PITT

Perché devi diventare adulto? Non c’è motivo.1

[Why do you have to grow up? There’s no reason.]

Widely hailed as a ‘gripping reflection on death and grieving’,2 La stanza del figlio [The Son’s Room], Nanni Moretti’s most critically acclaimed work to date, has also been read as a point of artistic rupture, as a film in which one of Italy’s most celebrated contemporary filmmakers ‘charts a new course’.3 In this change of course for Moretti, the central drama is fuelled by a ‘missing child’, in the terms proposed by Emma Wilson in her transnational film study, Cinema’s Missing Children, which appeared in 2003. In the present chapter, I intend to explore the range of resonances surrounding the missing child in Moretti’s film. I will suggest that whilst at the narrative level the film is marked by the death of a teenage son, and works to envisage, in Wilson’s phrasing, ‘the possibility of moving on from such excessive grief’, within a more discreet, localized context, this death ← 219 | 220 → (and the suffering it engenders) can be read in light of other influences or concerns.4 By locating this work within the longer trajectory of Moretti’s corpus and drawing on Slavoj Žižek’s short, yet compelling essay, ‘Fathers, Fathers, Everywhere’, and the suspension of the symbolic law it rehearses, I will argue, albeit with necessary caution, that the missing child topos (woven into the death and post-death strands of the film’s action), may ultimately...

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