Italian Futurism was the first avant-garde movement of the twentieth century.

The Futurists sought to destroy the art and culture of the past, which they believed had led to the decay of contemporary society.

They sought to replace it with an aesthetic of speed, violence, machines, and industry.

The Futurists celebrated energy and attempted to capture its essence in their works. In 1909 they issued their first manifesto, which established their goals:

  • glorification of modernity,
  • destruction of museums and libraries,
  • repudiation of history in favor of the present – especially war, and
  • celebration of science as a means to inspire invention.


Italian futurism in cinema

What Is Italian futurism in cinema?

Italian futurism is a movement in film that originated in Italy during the early 20th century.

The movement was a response to the constraints of realism, which many Italian filmmakers thought were too limiting.

In an attempt to break free from these restrictions, the futurists developed several different characteristics that are still identifiable in modern-day cinema.

The Futurists practised in every medium of art, including painting, sculpture, ceramics, graphic design, industrial design, interior design, urban design and architecture.

F.T. Marinetti veered towards a more radical form of Futurism touching upon political issues (such as war) and cultural ones (such as cinema).



What Is Italian Futurism In Cinema?

The word ‘futurism’ is derived from the Italian word “futuro”, which means ‘the future’. It was coined by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, an Italian poet who joined other artists to form a group known as the Futurist movement.

Futurist artists drew inspiration from various sources including African tribal art and Cubism.

They experimented with abstract forms and geometric shapes as well as new materials such as glass, plastic, bronze, aluminum, iron wire mesh, and even bread.

Painting was central to Italian Futurism. The movement evolved from divisionism (also called Neo-Impressionism), which was considered too static by Italian artists because it focused on a single moment in time rather than progressive motion.

Many famous Futurist paintings are distinguished by energetic brushstrokes that create a sense of velocity.

The roots of this movement can be traced back to a series of manifestos written by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti and published in 1908; The Futurist Cinema was one of them.

In these manifestos, Marinetti expressed his disdain for the past and admiration for the future, arguing that society should embrace new technology and reject old traditions.

He praised violence, war and speed, claiming that no country could ever win without these elements.

Exhibiting great confidence in the potential of film as an art form, Marinetti believed it would be possible to capture all the dynamism and energy of modern life on screen – something he did not believe could be achieved by relying on traditional cinematic elements such as plot or dialogue.

The Futurist Cinema

What is Italian Futurism in Cinema? Italian Futurism was a cultural movement which started in the early 20th century. 

It was a departure from the traditional arts. The Futurists wanted to embrace the progress brought about by the industrial age and sought to create a new type of art that reflected this.

Italian Futurism also had a political agenda, as many of its members were involved with the anarchist movement. That said, some of their most famous works have little to do with politics or social critiques.

Futurism was largely centred in northern Italy. Its aim was to break free from realistic art in order to take advantage of new technologies and aesthetics that the Industrial Revolution provided. 

In its earliest days, Futurist works were often hand-painted posters that were used to advertise events associated with the Futurists.

There was also a strong focus on theatrical pieces, including plays and Futurist operas. As time went on, though, Italian Futurism became more associated with film, which had been invented just a few years before.

Studies On Italian Avant-Garde Film

The Italian avant-garde was born in the 1910s, reaching its heyday during the 1920s.

Its main representatives were artists and filmmakers who had been involved in Futurism but were to a greater or lesser degree displeased with the movement’s glorification of violence and war.

The new cinematic language that they developed sought to place emphasis on the film itself rather than on the story it told. 

They were influenced by Russian and German filmmakers who had similarly experimented with abstraction.  Some of them even traveled to Berlin, Munich, and Paris to study their techniques.

Towards a Dynamic Cinema

Enrico Fulchignoni defined Italian avant-garde as “a process consisting of a series of attempts at freeing Italian cinema from the constraints of narrative”. 

This would lead to a more complex type of cinema based on three main elements:

  1. pure cinematographic perception;  
  2. time as an autonomous element of expression;  
  3. direct communication between film and audience.”

This new type of cinema was meant to be a direct communication between the filmmaker and the viewer through visual and auditory impressionism, without traditional narrative structures.

History Of Italian Futurism In Cinema

The Italian film industry has been a source of great creativity and innovation since the early 1900s.

An artistic movement known as Futurism, which began in Italy, made an indelible impression on cinema with its distinctive style and groundbreaking work.

Towards the end of the 19th century, even before the official emergence of cinema, Italian artists were fascinated with motion pictures. 

Painters such as Giacomo Balla, Umberto Boccioni and Gino Severini turned their attention to capturing the power and dynamism of modern technology and movement.

They were fascinated by the portrayal of movement in paintings by Paul Cézanne, Edgar Degas and others. Their interest in dynamism led them to experiment with capturing movement in their own works.

In 1909 Umberto Boccioni’s sculpture Unique Forms of Continuity in Space depicted a figure in violent motion.

The sculpture may have been inspired by Boccioni’s observations of human figures moving rapidly through space as he rode on a train through Milan.


He had also seen photographs of athletes in motion during his time studying art at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Turin.

Essential Filmmakers Of Italian Futurism In Cinema

I believe that the theories and ideas of Futurism are essential to understanding a lot of the choices that filmmakers make during the production of their films.

The Italian Futurists were an influential group of artists and writers who sought to reinvigorate art in Italy during World War I. 

Their writings inspired experimentation in literature, music, visual art and cinema.

Though they did not have any direct influence on filmmaking, they created a theoretical approach to art that strongly influenced Italian directors like Vittorio De Sica, Michelangelo Antonioni and Pierpaolo Pasolini.

The Futurist approach to film hinged on their belief that all art should be produced for mass consumption.

Films should be entertaining and meaningful at the same time. It should also serve as a vehicle for social change.

The core idea behind Futurism was the glorification of technology and its potential for improving life for everyone. 

The Futurists firmly believed that technology was going to create a better world, one where cars would speed through cities without issue and planes would deliver people from place to place.

Essential Films Of Italian Futurism In Cinema

Roger Ebert’s essay The Futurist Cinema is an excellent starting point for anyone who wishes to learn more about this fascinating period of cinema history. 

His analysis of the movement’s major themes and influences, along with his descriptions of some of the most influential films and filmmakers, is an invaluable tool for understanding Futurism’s impact on the development of cinema.

A more detailed, in-depth study of Italian Futurist Cinema can be found in Robin Wood’s book Futurist Film, which focuses solely on the movement’s most influential works. 

His breakdown of how these films were able to cause such a profound reaction from their audiences is fascinating, and can be applied to many modern day films; particularly action movies shot primarily at night.

His criticism of the movement as a whole should also be considered when viewing these films, as many viewers might not find their depictions of sex, violence and war to be as beautiful as Wood suggests they are.

The Futurists took their inspiration from the technical inventions that were appearing at this time and wanted to incorporate this into their artwork.

Importance Of Italian Futurism In Cinema

The Italian Futurist cinema theory is a set of concepts that were written and developed by the Italian film theorist Roberto Rossellini. 

The Futurist cinema theory states how the use of techniques such as parallel editing, rapid camera movements, and montage can be used to create a sense of speed in film.

The use of these techniques was meant to replicate the feelings that one would have in real life when moving at a high rate of speed. The Futurist cinema theory also discusses how these techniques could be used to combine and create an entirely new form of film.

The Italian Futurists were not only concerned with art but with technology as well. They wanted to explore more ways in which technology could be implemented into the art world.

One example of this could be found in the works produced by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti (1876-1944). Marinetti was an Italian poet, editor, artist, and political activist. 

He was most well known for his Manifesto of Futurism which he wrote in 1909.

He also created several pieces of art that reflected his thoughts on futurism including his piece titled Velocità (1909).

The End Of Italian Futurism In Cinema

The End Of Italian Futurism In Cinema, by Antonio Climati, is a visual and aural cornucopia of the future. 

Featuring over two hours of rare footage, both documentary and fictional, from the pre-World War II period in Italy, Climati’s film is a sonic and visual delight for cinephiles both casual and diehard.

The film opens with scenes of a crowded street in Milan. A man dressed in a brightly colored suit and bowler hat talks to a woman about various things going on at the time, like air travel and new technology.

At first, this feels like a typical scene that could have been filmed anywhere at any point in history. But then you realize that the person talking is actually an actor reading stock lines into a microphone while walking through the streets. 

There’s no one around him except for the cameraman and soundman who are trying to keep up with him as he moves down the street.

It’s one of many techniques used throughout The End of Italian Futurism In Cinema to create an atmosphere that is both visually and sonically stimulating. 

These techniques are used creatively throughout the film, often juxtaposing stock footage with more formal acting performances.

Italian Futurism In Cinema – Wrapping Up

X-Ray was the final Italian Futurist film and it is also one of the most influential. 

Directed by Guglielmo Biró and starring Boccioni, it features a series of images of factories, women dancing and a train on its track.

A stark contrast from other, typically melodramatic works, at the time, X-Ray featured a much more abstract style. It was praised by critics..

The film featured a sharp contrast between light and dark, which symbolized the change between old art and new art.

Prior to this film, there was very little depth in cinema but X-Ray took advantage of its two-dimensional space to give a sense of movement to the machines. The camera was positioned directly in front of the machinery so you could see every piecemoving together.

This style would be replicated in films such as The Cabinet of Dr Caligari and Manhattan.

Futurism is arguably one of the most interesting art movements to come out of Italy in the early 20th century.


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