chapter  2
25 Pages

Second generation: Their master’s voice

Italy was quick to adopt the newly invented cinema and her studios developed so rapidly that, by 1914, the country was, together with Denmark, the third largest exporter of films in the world. Like most European countries, Italy lost its foreign markets during the second decade of the century and, after 1920, Italian production companies, unable to cope with the financial crisis, went out of business. In terms of film creation, the years which followed the end of the war were blank. But we must not confuse film production and cultural activity. By 1915, films were distributed in most parts of the peninsula. The children born twenty years earlier had learnt to watch the world in a darkened room, their experience was infused with a capacity to like and enjoy the pictures, and they had acquired what can be called a cinematic culture. Obviously the tastes and habits of the cinema-goers were modified by the European conflict and its aftermath. Warfare introduced the authorities to the business, and the cinema, which had previously developed freely, was obliged to take account of an outside master, the state. It had also to cope with a far-reaching innovation, often considered a revolution, the advent of sound cinema. From now on, voices were on the air, they could also be printed on films. Rather than seeing the second generation of film buffs as a lost generation, we shall try to define its place in the long-range evolution of the pleasure found in picture theatres.