Something Else Besides a Man: Melodrama and the Maschietto in Postwar Italian Cinema
Children already had symbolic resonance in Italian culture before the invention of cinema, but it was in postwar film that the child became its emblematic figure. The child appears in this period as a character in need of protection against the degradations wrought by prior generations and malign forces that it is unable to combat. It is significant for Italian cultural history that this recurrent configuration should be emblematic. Silvana Patriarca in her study of Italian national character has discussed the ways in which defeat in the war destroyed the image of masculine virility that had been encouraged during Fascism.1 In her account, Italians in the postwar era sought to both reject this image and find an apparently more authentic or purer national character not associated with the crimes of Fascism. In this context the child, a figure of reduced capacities and not fully able to function, becomes emblematic of a national condition. As well as emblematizing defeat (in the historical context of foreign occupation, social collapse and wholescale economic and political reconstruction), the child provides an image of suffering victimhood, yet offers some sense of absolution from a discredited and dismantled past within a damaged present. Through representations of childhood, Italian postwar culture was able to suggest a range of values as natural and innocent, hinting ambivalently both at renewal and nostalgia. ← 169 | 170 →
The tendency in fiction for children to elaborate ‘adult feelings and fantasies’2 is subject to historical development. As such...
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