Ah, “neorealism,” the fifty cent word movie critics and cinema writers like toss around as they clean their monocles and put their film knowledge on display. But for the rest of us, what does “neorealism” actually mean and to what does it refer to? Well, instead of hitting the books and trying to decipher the authentic description of the kind of movies to which “neorealism” applies, here’s a handy video essay that does a good job of highlighting what kind of cinema the word implies.
This five-minute video essay from the BFI takes Vittorio De Sica‘s heartbreaker “Terminal Station” starring Montgomery Clift and Jennifer Jones, and compares it to the version American audiences saw at the time with producer David O. Selznick‘s butchered and much shorter version (titled “Indiscretion Of An American Housewife“). As you’re watching, you’ll see that one of the key differences between the master filmmaker’s approach and the Hollywood producer is an insistence on mood and letting extras and side characters get as much time to breathe and create the world of the movie as the lead actors. Even the titles of two versions speak to where the narrative focus tends to lie for De Sica and Selznick.
If anything, the essay is an interesting discussion starter, even if it doesn’t fundamentally answer the question it sets out to address. So check it out below and you can see both versions of “Terminal Station” by getting your hands on The Criterion Collection edition of the film.