Despite the movement only lasting around 10 years, the influence of Italian neorealism is undoubtedly seminal. By using a unique range of stylistic noir techniques, as well as strongly emotional social themes, the neorealists stamped their name on cinema history in a way that no other film movement had done previously, or has done since.
Following the downfall of fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, as well as their defeat in World War II, the Mediterranean power of Italy stood in a peculiar position by 1943. War-torn, humiliated, and unstable, Italian society and culture lay in disarray.
Art, and cinema in particular, was no exception – Mussolini’s Cinecitta studios had been heavily damaged during the war, leading to the loss of commercial Italian cinema’s focal point. Furthermore, the “Telefoni Bianchi” comedies, which dominated Italian filmmaking in the 1930s, came under heavy disparagement from several film critics, including Luchino Visconti and Cesare Zavattini. Read the article at Taste of Cinema.
Italian neorealism (Neorealismo), also known as the Golden Age of Italian Cinema, is a national film movement characterized by stories set amongst the poor and the working class, filmed on location, frequently using non-professional actors.
Italian neorealism films mostly contend with the difficult economic and moral conditions of post-World War II Italy, representing changes in the Italian psyche and conditions of everyday life, including poverty, oppression, injustice, and desperation.
Neorealist films were generally filmed with nonprofessional actors although, in a number of cases, well-known actors were cast in leading roles, playing strongly against their normal character types in front of a background populated by local people rather than extras brought in for the film. They are shot almost exclusively on location, mostly in rundown cities as well as rural areas due to its forming during the post-war era.
Neorealist films typically explore the conditions of the poor and the lower working class. Characters oftentimes exist within simple social order where survival is the primary objective. Performances are mostly constructed from scenes of people performing fairly mundane and quotidian activities, devoid of the self-consciousness that amateur acting usually entails. Neorealist films often feature children in major roles, though their characters are frequently more observational than participatory. Read more at Wikipedia.