Picturesque Pictures: Italian Early Non-fiction Films within Modern Aesthetic Visions

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Within early non-fiction film, the Italian travel or scenic films of the 1910s may be considered the most picturesque. They are remarkable for their presentation of landscapes and cityscapes, their co-existence of modernity and nostalgia, their accent on beauty – at times at the expense of geographic veracity and indexicality – and their focus on the transformed gaze through the use of special masks, split-screens, and other devices. The transmedial roots for this aestheticization can be found both in art (painting) and popular culture (postcards, magic lanterns, etc.). While the author was one of the firsts to write on this subject decades ago, today there is a need for radical revision and a deeper approach. This is due to the influx of recent literature first by Jennifer Peterson’s book Education in the School of Dreams (2013) and her scholarly articles. Secondly, Blom’s co-presentation on Italian early nonfiction at the 2018 workshop A Dive into the Collections of the Eye Filmmuseum: Italian Silent Cinema at the Intersection of the Arts led to the recognition that revision was needed. Finally, the films themselves call for new approaches while they are being preserved and disseminated by, foremost, the film archives of Bologna, Amsterdam, and Turin.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-65
Number of pages17
JournalActa Universitatis Sapientiae. Film & Media Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021


  • picturesque
  • travel films
  • early cinema
  • Italian cinema
  • intermediality
  • aestheticism


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