Fascism in 'Ossessione'

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Date Submitted: 12/05/2012 08:19 AM

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Argue in favour or against the interpretation of Visconti’s Ossessione as a metaphor of fascist Italy.

‘Ossessione’, a 1943 production by Luchino Visconti set in Fascist Italy, is often viewed as the first film belonging to the neorealism genre. The provocative film was based on James M. Cain’s novel, ‘The Postman Always Rings Twice’, and was Visconti’s first feature film. Made during the Second World War in the last years of the Fascist period, it was initially available only to small audiences and was suppressed by the Fascist censors; after a few screenings in Rome and Northern Italy the film was banned and destroyed by the Fascist government. ‘Ossessione’ can be seen as a metaphor of Fascist Italy due to its neorealist qualities; the film seeks to show audiences what everyday life was genuinely like for the working class living in Fascist Italy. It rebels against the artificial and idealised ‘Telefoni Bianchi’ films. Indeed, one of its most noticeable features is certainly its stark realism. ‘Ossessione’ has been read on a political level as a metaphor of Fascism by many critics.

Many of Visconti’s films contain examples of prostitution; not only ‘Ossessione’ but also ‘Rocco e i Suoi Fratelli’ and ‘Senso’. Prostitution in ‘Ossessione’ is depicted as something women have little choice but to turn to occasionally. Giovanna was forced to lead the uncertain and demeaning life of a casual prostitute in order to survive, which she explains to Gino “Ma tu capisci cosa significa farsi invitare a cena dagli uomini?” She then chooses to trade this for the boredom and servitude of a loveless marriage. This was the reality in Fascist Italy; despite campaigns to reduce prostitution, many working class women were forced to turn to this fornication in order to survive. As writer Christopher Wagstaff points out, women’s sexuality was “an economic resource in a time when masculinity was impotent to sustain the world’s productive equilibrium”. The prostitutes Visconti...

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