The Children Are Still Watching Us: The "Visual Psycho-Mimesis" of Il Cielo Cade and Certi Bambini

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Book Chapter

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Coming of Age on Film: Stories of Transformation in World Cinema


A few years ago, Áine O'Healy pointed out the "the image of the child as observer of a society that is out of control," which was "a recurrent trope in the national cinema during the postwar years", has been "revived during the past decade in the work of several Italian filmmakers, suggesting an implicit homage to the legacy of neorealism." With regard to the neorealist dominion, she mentioned De Sica's I bambini ci guardano (1943) -- a title which, she agreed with Sebastiani, still seemed apt-- and De Sica's classic neorealist works, namely, Sciuscià (1946) and Ladri di biciclette, as well as Rossellini's Germania anno zero (1947) and the Neapolitan episode of Paisà (1946). In the cinematic panorama of the late 1980s and 1990s. O'Healy analyzed Francesca Archibugi's work and claimed that nowhere was "the figure of the child more consistently constructed as witness of adult weakness or ineptiude than in the work of Archibugi."

Recently, several Italian feature films have attained similar aesthetic and ethical goals, exploiting the condition of the adolescent as a metafictional device to depict the complexity of history and society. In these films, the figure of the child, besides being the protagonist (both hero and victim of the events), is emphasized as the problematic center of the narrative and assumes a high semiotic relevance: on one hand, the child is the active subject as well as the (often) abused object of the action; on the other hand, he or she provides the narrative point of view of the film, usually from an oblique and low perspective. In other words, the child is employed both as metanarrative means to displace the focalization and as agent to give voice to a disadvantaged and at the same time privileged subject.


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