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Chasing the Real: Italian Neorealism

The film movement that changed cinema forever, and which today still hails the thrill of freedom.

One of the most significant post-war developments in cinema, Italian neorealism rejected traditional cinematic canons. It came to exist out of a moral necessity, following the urgency, as Cesare Zavattini, one of the movement’s architects, put it, to ‘find the hidden drama in everyday life’. When the subject of art becomes ordinary life, reality becomes spectacle. 

Our BFI Player collection, accompanying a two-month BFI Southbank season, features the different formal approaches taken by major directors who made reality such a spectacle. This decisive decade is ripe for rediscovery; it’s been 80 years since Rossellini started work on Rome, Open City and 70 years since the ‘official’ end of the movement, yet it remains relevant to our current times in its ability to teach us the importance of freedom and to reinforce our capacity for compassion.

Giulia Saccogna, season curator

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Rome, Open CityRome, Open City

Drama1945103 minsDirector: Roberto Rossellini

Roberto Rossellini’s landmark of Italian neorealism often cited as one of the greatest films ever made.

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Stromboli, Land of GodStromboli, Land of God

Drama1950100 minsDirector: Roberto Rossellini

In her first collaboration with Roberto Rossellini, Ingrid Bergman stars as a refugee who marries a fisherman and moves to a barren island.

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Bicycle ThievesBicycle Thieves

Drama194889 minsDirector: Vittorio De Sica

Vittorio De Sica’s story of a father and son searching for a stolen bicycle on the streets of Rome is a classic of post-war Italian cinema.

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The Machine that Kills Bad PeopleThe Machine that Kills Bad People

Comedy195284 minsDirector: Roberto Rossellini and Luciano Emmer

Roberto Rossellini's film about a photographer who is given the power to rid the Earth of 'evil-doers'.

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PaisàPaisà

War1946126 minsDirector: Roberto Rossellini

Roberto Rossellini’s ambitious and enormously moving follow-up to his breakthrough Rome, Open City.

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Germany, Year ZeroGermany, Year Zero

War194873 minsDirector: Roberto Rossellini

The concluding part of Roberto Rossellini’s celebrated War Trilogy, set amid the war-torn ruins of Berlin.

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Journey to ItalyJourney to Italy

Drama195486 minsDirector: Roberto Rossellini

Roberto Rossellini's acerbic but finally very moving masterpiece about marital crisis boasts great performances from Ingrid Bergman and George Sanders

Feature collections

Roberto Rossellini
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Roberto Rossellini

One of the key figures in cinema history, Rossellini initiated a new movement and evolved the language of film.

Italian Cinema
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Italian Cinema

Fellini, Antonioni, Pasolini, Rossellini, Argento – the melodic names that conjure up the best of Italian cinema.

Instant Film School
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Instant Film School

Learn from cinema’s best with this collection shaped for students. No lectures, no essays, just proof of what a camera and an idea can do.