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Zavattini and Neorealism: Analysis of The Essay


Cinematography can be seen as a reflection of trends and beliefs existing in the society. Neorealism became people’s response to the atrocities of the war and the path to understanding the world and all of its dimensions.1 Italian neorealism is regarded as one of the most influential movements in the film history that inspired filmmakers across the globe.2 Cesare Zavattini is one of the most prominent theoreticians of neorealism who described the primary features of Italian neorealism and provided certain insights into the future of this approach to filmmaking. This paper includes a brief summary and a short analysis of Zavattini’s essay “Some Ideas on the Cinema”.

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The essay dwells upon the peculiarities and goals of Italian neorealism. The author starts with the discussion of the roots and the central idea behind neorealism, stating that it is people’s response to the disillusionment of the post-war era and their search of the purest truth.3 Zavattini emphasizes that films should not be fictional because they must reflect reality by eliciting myriads of stories from people’s everyday life.4

Although some people find real life tedious, it has numerous topics to highlight and make people pay attention to something they witness on a daily basis but fail to speculate on it. The theoretician also claims that an average person has to be a protagonist of the stories featured in cinematography as exclusive heroes are unrealistic. The essay ends with the author’s view on the dialogue, as he suggests that dialects should be widely used in films to make them more realistic.5 This writing can be seen as a brief description of the central elements of neorealism.


The essay is also a manifesto that encourages filmmakers to purify their works since it explains the relevance of the movement for the audience. The author employs various rhetoric strategies to deliver his message. The ethos making the writing relevant and credible include the author’s credentials, who is one of the major theoreticians of the movement, so he is knowledgeable and has the necessary expertise.6

Zavattini also employs diverse facts that support his arguments as he refers to particular films and focuses on specific details such as topics, cast, and dialogue. The most pronounced rhetoric strategy is the use of ethos, as the author appeals to readers’ desire to know more about the subject. He uses the words to enhance his appeal, such as “the most vital realities of our time” or “I challenge everyone to prove the contrary”. 7 Such emotional phrases make readers look closer at certain films and their own lives.

The article provides valuable insights into the nature and purpose of neorealism in filmmaking. Zavattini postulates important components of neorealism creating standards and refining the form. The author helps neorealists to find methods and strategies to create a pure reflection of reality on the screen.8

The theoretician shows that realistic seems are abundant and can be explored properly. Moreover, these topics and their realization in films can be interesting to the public because they will help people to contextualize their existence and find the meaning. The author’s example of the woman buying a pair of shoes is remarkable since he illustrates a way to approach reality in cinematography, and he does it in simple terms.9 A film can be built on this trivial story, but filmmakers can elicit numerous meanings and show the reality that is interesting.

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At the same time, the author is rather too optimistic regarding the level of realism. He seems to ignore the subjective nature of filmmaking. He notes that collaboration adds certain biases as several people are involved in the process of filmmaking trying to include their meanings.10

No film can be void of bias, because the filmmaker chooses what kind of reality to show and what facets to put to the fore. Zavattini mentions that the development of technology will make films more realistic as many people will be able to make films and tell their stories.11 Even those realistic stories will be told by individuals based on their background, the environment they have to live in, and their personal traits. Social media can be seen as an illustration of this plurality of ideas and views on one and the same topic. People choose different facets, and although many of them try to remain objective, their videos are subjective due to the peculiarities of people’s psychology.


Although some ideas mentioned in the essay may be further discussed or even questioned, the essay is an important work explaining the essence of neorealism. On the one hand, the author helps filmmakers to remain as realistic as possible by giving simple tips. On the other hand, he explores the purpose of the movement and claims that neorealism can ensure the return to reality. The author sees people’s desire to escape from their real lives as one of the most serious challenges that make the world rather miserable. The essay can be instrumental in outlining some paths for filmmakers who will bring people to contemplating reality. This attention to what is real will become the first step for the humanity to solve the issues that arise.


Majumdar, Neepa. “Pather Panchali: From Neo-Realism to Melodrama.” In Film Analysis: A Norton Reader, edited by R. L. Rutsky and Jeffrey Gieger, 510-527. New York: Norton, 2005.

Thompson, Kristin, and David Bordwell. Film History: An Introduction. New York: McGraw-Hill Education, 2019.

Zavattini, Cesare. “Some Ideas on the Cinema.” In Vittorio De Sica: Contemporary Perspectives, edited by Stephen J. Snyder and Howard Curle, 50-61. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2000.


  1. Kristin Thompson and David Bordwell, Film History: An Introduction (New York: McGraw-Hill Education, 2019), 316.
  2. Neepa Majumdar, “Pather Panchali: From Neo-Realism to Melodrama,” in Film Analysis: A Norton Reader, ed. R. L. Rutsky and Jeffrey Gieger (New York: Norton, 2005), 520.
  3. Cesare Zavattini, “Some Ideas on the Cinema,” in Vittorio De Sica: Contemporary Perspectives, ed. Stephen J. Snyder and Howard Curle (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2000), 51.
  4. Ibid., 53.
  5. Ibid., 61.
  6. Thompson and Bordwell, Film History: An Introduction, 325.
  7. Zavattini, “Some Ideas on the Cinema,” 55.
  8. Thompson and David Bordwell, Film History: An Introduction, 325.
  9. Zavattini, “Some Ideas on the Cinema,” 55.
  10. Ibid., 59.
  11. Ibid.

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