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Luchino Visconti’s masterpiece is rightly considered the pinnacle of Italian neorealism. “Rocco and his brothers” also represents Visconti’s break with neorealism and he later devoted himself mainly to grandiose, epic historical dramas about modern Italian and even European history, in which he dealt with the ruin and decadence of the nobility and the bourgeoisie. However, from today’s perspective, this epic drama, which takes place in post-war Milan, is also an extraordinary historical depiction of the space and time when numerous families from the rural, backward south sought happiness in the rapidly industrializing and modernizing north.

So one winter night, the Parondi family arrives in Milan by train from Luciana from the south. Mother Rosaria (Katina Paxinou) arrives there with four sons, Simone (Renato Salvatori), Rocco (Alain Delon), Ciro (Max Cartier) and Luca (Rocco Vidolazzi), while the eldest Vincenzo (Spiros Focas) has already paved the way and has already settled down in Milan. And Visconti structured this drama brilliantly, so we follow the story of this family from the perspective of each brother, from the oldest to the youngest. And the titular hero Rocco is right in the middle, and the center of attention is the relationship between him and his older brother Simone and the fact that they both fell in love with the same girl, the prostitute Nadia (the outstanding Frenchwoman Annie Girardot).

But before that, we follow the adaptation of this southern family to life in the north, the contempt and even open mockery of the northerners with the newcomers from the south, even if they were also Italians. The whole family, with the exception of Vincenzo, moves to a basement apartment and the sons are looking for any kind of work, and they are happy when it starts to snow because shoveling means work. They get better with time. They find out that the smartest thing is not to pay rent, because when they are evicted, then by law, as homeless people, they have the right to a public apartment, and they soon move to a state-owned, more spacious apartment, where they will also meet the fatal Nadia.

Both Simone and Rocco are talented boxers, but their characters could not be more different. Good and righteous Rocco sees only the good in people and believes that people can change, and although Nadia will immediately like both of them, Rocco will hide his feelings and wait a few years after she and Simone break up. In the meantime, Simone started a boxing career, Rocco served his military service, and in the meantime, Simone will change for the worse, into a drunken bum whose anger, resentment and wickedness will completely cloud his mind and lead him astray. Then again, even though Simone will do him unimaginable evil and constantly seems to be trying to destroy his life, Rocco will still try to lead his brother on the right path, he will put his happiness before his own, he will give up what he loves most, no matter what it is clear that it is too late for Simone.

And with this film, Visconti, who found inspiration for this drama in the novel by Giovanni Testori, confirmed himself as an exceptional author who captures not only a historical moment in an exceptional way, but also brings the great dynamics of a traditional family from the south that will completely fall apart in a relatively short period of time. “Rocco and his brothers” is not only one of the key films of Italian cinema, but it is also a film that has influenced subsequent generations. The two greatest American filmmakers of Italian origin, Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola, pointed out this film as a great inspiration, for whom Visconti’s portrayal of the Parondi family partly served as inspiration for shaping the relationship between the members of the Corleone family.

Also, the theme of decadence, deterioration, constantly runs through the films of Luchino Visconti, a guy who was full of contradictions himself because he was a nobleman by origin, and an ardent Marxist according to his political preferences. Thus, in one of the last scenes, the youngest brother Luca talks about how he dreams of returning to the south one day, but where because the thought of his native house, stone, karst and olive tree remains only a memory, longing and nostalgia for some past times when everyone was like one, and in the meantime the family in the north fell apart. Once again, Visconti showed his great “nose” for finding young actors, because it may not have been their first roles for both Delon and Girardot, but the roles that brought them recognition and fame. It is interesting that in real life Girardot chose the former between Simone and Rocco, that is, she married the Italian actor Gabriele Salvatori, with whom she was married until his death in 1988.