Neo-fascism has been steadily increasing over the world for the past 20 years. Fascism plays on our fears as the world becomes more unstable and it becomes harder for people to understand where they fit into it. Obviously, this phenomenon is not new. But from where does it come? Where does this need for strongmen come from?
Intriguing essayist documentary March on Rome by Mark Cousins takes us back to the moment fascism first emerged and examines how crucial events that occurred in Italy in late October 1922 have had an impact on the 20th century as well as on the present day.
Cousins issues a dire warning about a hazardous weed that appears to be unstoppable and considers ways to suppress it by researching archive material, fusing it with images of modern Rome, and using actress Alba Rohrwacher as a symbol of the populus.
March on Rome leaves the audience with a lot to consider as it concludes with a sombre, almost melancholy performance of Bella Ciao, the well-known anti-fascist folk song having origins in the same nation as the fascist movement.
March on Rome is a compelling and important movie that has been painstakingly researched and imaginatively produced. It ought to be obligatory watching in high schools from Delhi to Delhi and from Rome to Tokyo.
By examining two early 1920s movies, Cousins begins his analysis of cinema. One is a sceneggiata directed by Elvira Notari, one of the top female directors in Italy at the time, and including street scenes in some of Naples’ less affluent neighbourhoods.
The March on Rome, which began on October 24, 1922, with a speech by Benito Mussolini to 60,000 fascists in Naples, and culminated with Mussolini being given the state by King Victor Emmanuel III five days later, is documented in Umberto Paradisi’s film A Noi.
The film, which was made a year after the events it depicts, is blatant fascist propaganda and served as a clear model for Leni Riefenstahl’s later productions, even if the latter’s films unquestionably have more artistic value.
Cousins breaks down the movie, demonstrating how Paradisi used many cameras and editing gimmicks to produce the idealised masculine strength that fascists around the world so like.
The next section of March on Rome examines Mussolini, Il Duce, the demagogue who successfully enthralled his adoring crowds, and wonders whether or not he actually held the position of power.
Rome is a stage, according to Cousins, and Mussolini was the actor who entered the stage to do his part. But who were the directors waiting in the background?
The project’s co-author and initiator Tony Saccucci conducted significant investigation, which points to Raoul Vittorio Palermi. The King refused to sign a state of siege that Prime Minister Luigi Facta had issued after blackshirts assembled outside Rome because Palermi, a prominent member of the Italian Freemasons, had met with him on the eve of Mussolini’s coup d’état.
The movie also portrays the military, landowners, and business as being the driving forces behind Mussolini’s ascent to power. Had he been the puppet and they the puppeteers? However, Mussolini also had backing from other nations.
US editorials praised his fortitude, Winston Churchill endorsed his conduct, and Sigmund Freud was one of his supporters. From the Iberian peninsula to Japan, Mussolini served as an inspiration for fascists all across the world.
Ettore Scola’s Una Giornata Particolare, which is set on the day of a meeting between Mussolini and Adolf Hitler, to Dreyer, from Bernardolucci to Pasolini, are just a few of the filmmakers Cousins successfully incorporates into his story.
With the use of these illustrations, he demonstrates the potency of genuine cinema and how a movie like A Noi underimagined it.
Movies show a genuine interest in people, something fascist propaganda like A Noi by definition lacks. With a quiet, even soothing voice, Cousins slowly dismantles the glorification of imagery while occasionally allowing for sardonic humour, like when he remarks that all of these fascist leaders enjoy giving speeches from balconies and refers to them as “the balcony lads.”
He wonders if they can see Auschwitz or Dachau from up there.Through Anna (Alba Rohrwacher), who provides recurring monologues throughout the movie and personifies the sentiment of the Italian people, Cousins humanises them.
As the understanding sets in that the populist message was only a facade, admiration gradually gives way to disillusionment. Although it’s an interesting method to include the voices of the individuals in the movie, it doesn’t quite fit the rest of the narrative.
The first segment of March on Rome features an interview with Donald Trump during which he is questioned about utilising a Mussolini quotation. When we witness pictures of people storming the Capitol on January 6, 2021, the movie’s conclusion completes the circle.
Cousins makes a compelling case for the connection between the March on Rome, which marked the beginning of fascism as we know it, and its contemporary direct offspring.
Due to this, March on Rome serves as both a topical and historical chronicle as well as an eye-opening illustration of the influence that film may have on both good and sad (but occasionally also negative) causes. The remnants of Italy’s fascist history are still visible as the camera zooms in on modern Rome.
And A Noi is still around. The advice of Cousins is to teach it, parody it, and preserve it. These lessons ought to begin with this outstanding documentary.
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