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Days of Glory: Revisiting Italian Neorealism

Sunday, December 12, 2010
3:00 p.m. Bandits of Orgosolo
Vittorio De Seta (Italy, 1961)

(Banditi a Orgosolo). Set in the remote Sardinian countryside, De Seta’s first feature is as spare as the surrounding mountains, unforgiving in their barren majesty. In this trying expanse lives Michele, a simple shepherd who wants nothing more than to tend his flock. Wrongly associated with bandits, Michele, along with his twelve-year-old brother Peppeddu, flees with his sole possessions, the sheep, driving them across the bleak mountains to evade the carabinieri. Cast with nonprofessional actors, Bandits of Orgosolo has the stark authenticity of neorealism, lyrically heightened by De Seta’s austere but beautiful photography. The film, however, is not really about an injustice leading to calamitous results, but about the delicate social and moral order that allows Michele to persist ever so precariously upon the land. Tilt that balance just slightly and the age-old order fails. Often compared to poetic works like Robert Flaherty’s Louisiana Story (1948), De Seta’s great film shares in their romantic innocence, now tempered by a more worldly sense of outrage.

—Steve Seid

• Written by De Seta, Vera Gherarducci. Photographed by De Seta. With Michele Cossu, Peppeddu Cuccu, Vittorina Pisano. (98 mins, In Italian with English subtitles, B&W, 35mm, From Cinecittà Luce S.p.A.)