Neorealism Explained: Side-by-Side Comparison of De Sica's vs. Selznick's 'Terminal Station'
When we talk about film movements we’re referring to a certain sensibility toward filmmaking usually espoused by a certain country during a certain time in history. However, since films aesthetically and narratively evolve, they tend to be tricky animals to cage. Italian neorealism is no different. If you’ve ever found it difficult to pinpoint exactly what makes a film a neorealist film, a video essay by the British Film Institute puts two versions of Vittorio De Sica’s Terminal Station (Stazione Termini) side by side to compare the approach taken by De Sica and Hollywood producer David O. Selznick.
The characteristics of Italian neorealism, like all film movements, are distinguishable for the most part, but of course contain variations and deviations from “the rule.” Traditionally speaking, these films are classified by their realistic depictions of the Italian lower class, highlighting the everyday struggle to survive. These films typically are filmed on location, use unprofessional actors (most famously in The Bicycle Thief,) and employ long takes and wide shots — which were thought to capture more “reality.”
This video essay compares the approach De Sica took when editing Terminal Station, known to American audiences as Indiscretion of an American Housewife, and that of Hollywood producer David O. Selznick, known for producing Gone With the Wind.
The differences are pretty astounding. Take a look for yourself below:
In my opinion, the quicker editing of Selznick’s version lost most of what makes Italian neorealism so beautiful. De Sica’s version allows our eyes and minds to linger, taking in the whole scene, leaving us alone with the empty space after the subject leaves the frame. I missed that in the Selznick version. (Admittedly, I’m a huge fan of De Sica and Italian neorealist cinema, so I’m not afraid of a long take or 2 — or 700.)
What do you think of the differences between the two versions of Stazione Termini? Out of all of the film movements (German expressionism, French New Wave, etc.) what approach to film do you most relate to? Let us know in the comments.