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Italian Film in the Shadow of Auschwitz

Italian Film in the Shadow of Auschwitz

Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 224
  • Book Info
    Italian Film in the Shadow of Auschwitz
    Book Description:

    Throughout the book, Marcus brings a variety of perspectives to bear on the question of how Italian filmmakers are confronting the Holocaust, and why now given the sparse output of Holocaust films produced in Italy from 1945 to the early 1990s.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8447-8
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. Historical Background Sketch
    (pp. 3-10)

    ‘Because of the large dimensions of the camp, the complexity of its organization, and the number of those who found death there,’ writes Roberto G. Salvadori, ‘the name of Auschwitz has justly become emblematic, summarizing all of the forms that Nazi persecution took toward the Jews and other ethnic groups, in its crudest phase.’¹ Yet in the Italian case, the synecdochal force of Auschwitz, its power to conjure up the entire univers concentrationnaire of which it was but one example, should not supersede its literal meaning. For Jewish Italy, Auschwitz was the material destination of eleven of the fifteen transports...

  5. PART I Weak Memory:: From the End of the Second World War to the End of the Cold War, with a Foray into the 1990s

    • 1 Ghost Stories: An Introduction
      (pp. 13-27)

      The fifteen survivors of the Roman Jewish community who returned from Auschwitz in 1945 were like ghosts, wrote Elsa Morante. ‘Erano figure spettrali come numeri negativi, al di sotto di ogni veduta naturale, e impossibili perfino alla comune simpatia. La gente voleva rimuoverli dalle proprie giornate come dalle famiglie normali si rimuove la presenza dei pazzi, o dei morti’ (They were spectral figures, like negative numbers, beneath all natural sight, inconceivable even for common friendliness. People wanted to censor them from their days as normal families remove the mad or the dead).¹ But it was not just their wasted appearances...

    • 2 A Diaphanous Body of Films
      (pp. 28-82)

      ‘I didn’t know that behind certain famous ruins, there was a neighbourhood that used to be called the ghetto. One day, many years ago, a friend of mine took me there.’¹ This voice-over narration, which leads us into the 1982 television mini-seriesStoria d’amore e di amicizia(Story of Love and Friendship) encapsulates an entire postwar history of ignorance, inadvertent neglect, or downright repression of the Jewish predicament under the Fascist and Nazi regimes. Especially significant is the fact that the ghetto provided the setting for the most horrific ‘signature’ event of the Italian Holocaust – the 16 October 1943...

  6. PART II Recovered Memory:: Contemporary Italian Holocaust Films in Depth

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)
    • 3 The Haunting Strains of Holocaust Memory: Ricky Tognazzi’s Canone inverso (Making Love)
      (pp. 85-98)

      A compelling example of the Italian need to represent the Shoah at this particular historical juncture isCanone inverso, the 1996 novel by Triestine writer Paolo Maurensig, adapted by filmmaker Ricky Tognazzi in 2000. Of the greatest interest to my study is the relationship between novel and film – the adaptive strategy by which Tognazzi has taken a story that is only tangentially concerned with the plight of the Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe, and has made it, instead, a full-fledged Holocaust text. In so doing, he has brought the latencies, half-tones, and ellipses of Maurensig’s novel into the foreground of...

    • 4 A Childhood Paradise Lost: Andrea and Antonio Frazzi’s Il cielo cade (The Sky Is Falling)
      (pp. 99-110)

      ‘Let’s recount History again,’ said Andrea and Antonio Frazzi of their filmIl cielo cade, ‘but this time through the stupefied eyes of an eightyear-old child. The gaze of a child is always something that puts History up against a wall – a child is a privileged observer and narrator because ingenuous, direct … and on the road to transformation.’² By recalling the Second World War past, and especially the effects of the Shoah, through the sensibility of a young girl, the Frazzi brothers join ranks with a host of other authors, both literary and cinematic, who choose not only...

    • 5 The Alter-Biography of the Other-in-Our-Midst: Ettore Scola’s Concorrenza sleale (Unfair Competition)
      (pp. 111-124)

      ‘Non sanno raccontare l’Italia’ (they don’t know how to tell the story of Italy), Ettore Scola said of the current generation of filmmakers during a round-table discussion of his work at the 38th Mostra Internazionale del Nuovo Cinema in Pesaro on 29 June 2002. Scola argued that because of their reliance on thinly veiled autobiography, today’s Italian filmmakers are unable to create a cinema that uses personal fictions to stand for the larger, national story. In Scola’s judgment, current filmmakers are so narcissistically engaged in holding up a mirror to the sophisticated, hip world of thirty-somethings as they struggle with...

    • 6 The Holocaust Rescue Narrative and the End of Ideology: Alberto Negrin’s Perlasca, un eroe italiano (Perlasca: The Courage of a Just Man)
      (pp. 125-139)

      This is a story about rescue, but it is also about the rescue of a story. In 1990 Italian television broadcast an interview with Giorgio Perlasca about his activities towards the end of the Second World War in Budapest, where he managed to save the lives of 5200 Hungarian Jews through a series of intrigues and diplomatic sleights of hand. Two years after the airing of the TV interview, journalist Enrico Deaglio published his superb book-length study of Perlasca, entitledLa banalità del bene(The Banality of Goodness) in an ironic recall of Hannah Arendt’s landmark work on the psychological...

    • 7 The Present through the Eyes of the Past: Ferzan Ozpetek’s La finestra di fronte (Facing Windows)
      (pp. 140-152)

      ‘Roma, 1943.’ With this caption, Ozpetek plunges us into a world that is both historically grounded and phantasmagoric, objectively true yet filtered through the traumatized memory of a disturbed old man. Only later will we learn the precise month and day of this initial scene, as well as its location on the map of Rome. But for now all we know is that two men are engaged in an exchange of intense and suspicious glances in a bakery enshrouded in shadows. The scene’s focalizer, the younger of the two men, makes a desperate attempt to escape this space, but is...

  7. Postscript – A Glimpse at 2004: Il servo ungherese (The Hungarian Servant) and La fuga degli innocenti (The Flight of the Innocents)
    (pp. 153-160)

    A film that partakes of the internationalizing impulse of much Italian Holocaust cinema¹ is Massimo Piesco and Giorgio Molteni’sIl servo ungherese(2004), whose very title announces its eastern European focus. The story takes place in the Teufelwald concentration camp, and it foregrounds the relationship between the commanding officer, Major August Dailermann, his wife Franziska, and the Hungarian prisoner who becomes their personal servant, Miklos Cohen. Dailermann, indifferent to the genocidal activities of the camp, happily leaves its management to the young and fiendish Lieutenant, Tross, preferring to spend his time listening to opera music and bickering with his wife....

  8. Epilogue: The Holocaust, the Cinema, and ‘the Italian Case’ in Ettore Scola’s ’43–’97
    (pp. 161-168)

    In the summer of 2002, while shopping on Rome’s Via dei Giubbonari, named for the jacket-makers who ply their trade there, I noticed that the cashier who rang up my purchase was wearing a necklace with a mezuzah, a pendant encasing a parchment inscribed with verses from the Torah. Never one to pass up a research lead, I asked the gentleman, named Angelo Di Cori, about his background, and explained to him my project on Italian Holocaust memory. Without further prompting, Di Cori poured out the saga of his family’s travails during the Nazi occupation of Rome, and offered to...

  9. Bibliography
    (pp. 169-174)
  10. Film Index
    (pp. 175-178)
  11. General Index
    (pp. 179-187)