Back for good: melodrama and the returning soldier in post-war Italian cinema

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Italian neorealism is conventionally read as the authoritative cinematic chronicle of Italy’s experience of World War II, and the Resistance. However, this article argues that viewing this period of Italian cinema solely through the lens of neorealism has obscured the importance of the affective charge of melodrama in constituting an alternative ethics of representation in the late 1940s and early 1950s in Italy, one that worked via an appeal to the emotions. It posits that the traumas of Fascism, war, occupation, and Resistance were worked through by Italian cinema after the war in a range of genres and modes, principally melodrama.

By focusing on the figure of the returning soldier or reduce, and the films’ representation of a return to domestic disruption, the article examines how this domestic or romantic disruption stands in for what cannot be narrated, which is the ideological chaos of the Fascist and post-Fascist period. In many films the return home, the nostos, is fraught with misrecognition, in the sense that he cannot recognise the home, or the country, he left behind. The article argues that the disturbance caused by the reduce to familial relations speaks to the Italian struggle to come to terms with aspects of its repressed war experience, particularly that of the Italian soldiers imprisoned abroad.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)123-142
Number of pages15
JournalModern Italy
Issue number2
Early online date10 Apr 2017
Publication statusPublished - 18 May 2017


  • Italian Cinema
  • melodrama
  • post-war Italy
  • masculinity
  • Veterans


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