Lecture on Italian Language and Cinema

Event Date: 
Tuesday, October 17, 2017 - 6:00pm to 7:30pm
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Lecture or Talk
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Under the High Patronage of the President of the Italian Republic

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Italian cinema relinquished Italian literary language back to the shelf. Its role as a guardian of the language was handed to television, where Italian films in which dialect is prominent are still excluded from programming.

Caterina D’Amico, Director of the Centro di Cinematografia Sperimentale in Rome will show us how Italian cinema changed and shaped the Italian language, in a lecture on movies by Vittorio De Sica, Mario Mattòli and Lina Wertmüller.

In 1930, when the first Italian sound film was released, cinema became one of the primary means for spreading the Italian language through a country where the overwhelming majority of inhabitants spoke ancient, highly structured dialects.

Adhering to the rules set by Fascist regime in the ‘30’s, Italian cinema showed the country not as it was, but as it was supposed to be: an ordered, content society, filled with healthy ideals. The predominant genres in Italian cinematography between 1931 and 1945 were light comedies, melodrama and some epics for propaganda purposes. The actors in these films were theatre actors, who spoke with perfect, and at times, even contrived, diction. Dialect was strictly banned.

At the end of the war, a free Italy saw the emergence of a cinematographic style that overturned the dominant aesthetics: it was the birth of neorealism.

In Paisà, a true manifesto of the new Italian cinema, Roberto Rossellini shows the country as it was, not as one might want it to be. The result was a film that was somewhat messy and disheveled like reality, where the dialogue was spoken in a mosaic of languages and dialects that restore a real pulsing humanity. From that moment on, examples of ambitious films that made strong, casual use of dialect were countless: from Visconti, to De Sica, Rosi, Petri, Amelio, Olmi, Tornatore, Garrone — all international successes.

Meanwhile, out of the rib of neorealism, Italian-style comedy was born.

Today the big eternal themes like hunger, power, redemption, the art of getting by, and cunning are told by new masks that use dialect as a combat weapon. Dialect takes on a different value because it is representative of reality. It is added to the character as a costume, as make-up, an added element to define a character, to describe his/her geographical and social history. And so, while the actor of the past scrupulously removed any dialectical inflection, today’s actor preserves it, highlights it, learns it, and even invents it.