Friday, December 27, 2019

The Children Are Watching Us

In 1942 Vittorio De Sica made this film. We see the movie through the eyes of the child, Prico. Prico sees his mother talking to a man (Roberto) and he knows something is not right. When his mother runs off with Roberto, Prico and his father are both heart broken. Nina does come back and Prico's father, Andrea, takes her back for his son's sake. The couple reconcile and it seems that the affair seems to have been forgotten.

The family takes a vacation at the seashore. When Andrea has to return to work, Nina and Prico stay at the shore for a few days. Nina again hooks up with Roberto who has followed her. Prico sees them together and runs away but is soon returned to his mother.
When they return to Rome, Nina leaves again for Roberto. Andrea eventually enrolls his son at a private Catholic School. Andrea then kills himself in Rome. When Nina visits the school to see her son, Prico turns and walks away from her in one of the greatest endings ever to a movie.

The film is really interesting on many levels. Not as renowned as De Sica's Bicycle Thieves, Umberto D. or Shoeshine, which are among the best films, and in particular, among the best neo-realist movies ever made. But The Children Are Watching us might actually have been the first neo-realist movie ever made. Traditionally the first neo-realist movie is considered Open City (1946) by Roberto Rossellini. DeSica's movie was made in 1942 (released in 1944) and has many of the characteristics of the neo-realist style.  It is shot on location, the most important character, Prico, is played by an amateur and it definitely doesn't have a Hollywood ending.
De Sica might have been particularly effective with the theme of betrayal and abandonment because he was doing the same thing to his family at the time the film was being shot. He was in the process of leaving his wife and his daughter for an actress he had met while directing. It's particularly interesting with the suicide and the child's rejection of the cheating parent at the end of the film.
De Sica is a great director and I would add this film to the three great movies he is usually associated with. Not too many directors have four great movies on their resume.