Films and books to understand 25 April in Italy

Partisans Venice 1945

It’s not easy to explain Resistenza, Italian resistance movement that fought against Nazi-Fascism, in a few words. Resistenza is an umbrella term for resistance groups that opposed German forces and the Italian Fascist puppet regime of the Italian Social Republic during the later years of World War II.

Between 1943 and 1945 thousand of men and also women, who played a relevant role in the movement, joined the Resistenza, from North to South. Partisans were young fearless guys, political opposers, men tired of being subjected to the regime. They had strong ideals that brought them together. It all resulted in a Civil War between fascists and partisans, at the end of which on 25 April 1945 CLNAI (one of the committees of Resistenza) declared the insurrection of all the territories under the fascist regime. By 1st May North Italy was free. Italy became a Republic thanks to the referendum that took place in 1946.

Many people died, on both sides, and that was a hard period of Italian history. Intellectuals, novelists and film directors also contributed to Resistenza with their works, and today we have a great cultural heritage that can help us understand better about that period and celebrate properly April 25 every year.


Johnny the Partisan by Beppe Fenoglio (1968)

Johnny is a university student who loves English literature. After the proclaim of the armistice, he leaves Rome and comes back to Alba, Piedmont. At the beginning Johnny concentrates on his studies, but after his friend’s death he decides to take action. In 200 they released the film Johnny the Partisan, based on the novel.

The House on the Hill by Cesare Pavese (1948)

In this novel the reader can find the difficulty the intellectual has to face whn approaching Resistenza. Corrado, Pavese’s alter-ego, is a professor who works in Turin. He does not have any interest at all in the historical facts that are happening during World War II. He hides in a house on the hills but after the armistice he must think more about the historical situation in Italy and the people affected.

Cesare Pavese

Cesare Pavese

History by Elsa Morante (1974)

The novel has been written nearly thirty years after the writer spent one year hiding from the Germans in the villages on the mountains. Morante describes what history does to people when it affect their ordinary life, letting them fighting for life.

Christ stopped at Eboli by Carlo Levi (1945)

This is a memoir by Carlo Levi who spent his exile in remote towns in the region of Basilicata - South of Italy - between 1935 and 1936. The title of the book comes from an expression by the people of ‘Gagliano’ who say of themselves, ‘Christ stopped short of here, at Eboli’, explains Levi. This means that they have somehow been excluded from the full human experience.

The Garden of the Finzi-Continis by Giorgio Bassani (1962)

In this historical novel Bassani deals with the relationships between the narrator, an Italian Jew, and the children of the Finzi-Contini family from the rise of Mussolini until the beginning of World War II.

Men and not Men by Elio Vittorini (1945)

This novel of the Milan Resistance in World War II is the second work by Vittorini. He writes ‘Today we have Hitler. And what is he? Is he not a man? We have his Germans, we have the Fascists. Can we say they do not belong to mankind?’.

The Path of the Nest of Spiders by Italo Calvino (1947)

This was Calvino’s first novel and he was only 23 when he published it. It tells the story of Pin, a cobbler’s apprentice in a town on the Ligurian coast during World War II, who joins the partisans.


Rome Open city by Roberto Rossellini (1945)

A masterpiece of neo-realism, the film won the most prestigious Cannes’ Grand Prize, and was also nominated for the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar. The film openes in Italy on September 27, 1945, with the war damage to Rome not yet repaired. A must-see to understand the difficulties Italy and its inhabitants had to face during World War II.

A frame by Rome, Open City

A frame by Rome, Open City

A difficult life by Dino Risi (1961)

This commedia all’italiana tells the story of an Italian partisan named Silvio (played by Alberto Sordi), and his companions near the Lake of Como. The film covers the period between 1944 and 1960 through a journey into Silvio’s ideals of the Italian Communists party.

Paisan (Paisà) by Roberto Rossellini (1946)

After the acclaimed international success of Rome Open City, Rossellini was able to obtain funding from international investors, so he decided to shoot this film, the second of a trilogy. The neo-realist war is divided into six episodes, they are set in the Italian Campaign during World War II. Paisan was nominated for both the Academy Award for Best Writing (Original Screenplay) and the BAFTA Award for Best Film from any source.

And Agnes Chose to Die by Giuliano Montaldo (1976)

Based on a novel of the same name by Renata Viganò which won the Viareggio Prize in 1949, this Italian film drama tells the story of a woman whose husband, a man fighting for Resistance, is taken to a concentration camp.



25 AprilJohnny the Partesannazi-fascismResistenzaRossellini
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