Dr. Joseph Perna gave an address entitled, "Camera Eye and Evil Eye: Rossellini's La macchina ammazzacattivi" at the 2nd Annual Interdisciplinary conference, "A Sense of Space and Place: Global and Local Perspectives" organized by the Mellon Globalization Forum, which was held at the University of the South, April 6-8, 2017.
In 1945, Roberto Rossellini completed the film that would establish his reputation for decades to come: Rome Open City. That year, the Second World War came to an end; German foreces retreated from northern Italy, benio Mussolini was shot, and the pininsula was liberated definitively by the Allies. The intensity of this historical moment-narrated, in part, by Rossellini's film-seemed to demand a distinctive mode of filmmaking. The French critic André Bazin would soon describe it as reorealism, or "the Italian school of the Liberation: a film practice attuned to the experience of living through the war. By the beginning of the 1950s, then, neorealism's work would seem to have concluded. Italy was remaking itself as a liberal democracy, and Rossellini had embarked upon a relationshiop with the Swedish actress Ingrid Bergman. Yet in their second film together-Europe '51-they take up the unfinished business of reconstruction. The film traces the moral awakening of the bereaved, bourgeois mother living in Rome, and embeds this awakening in the spaces of the Roman periphery-its housing blocks, and factories, bus lines, and shanties. At the same time, Rossellini links his heroine's humanitarianishm to psychic instability, and so entwines the terrain of the postwar capital with the affective terrain of those living through reconstruction. My paper unfolds this peculiar convergence, and explores the emotional climate registered by Rossllini's film. What lessons are we to draw from Irene's discovery of the periphery? And how might her participation in it address the limits of compassion?