Documentary review: The March on Rome by Mark Cousins

The March on Rome, directed by Mark Cousins, is a documentary that delves into the history of fascism in Italy and the events that led up to Mussolini’s infamous March on Rome. The essay film is a thought-provoking and insightful exploration of a pivotal moment in Italian history. Cinema Made in Italy festival at Cine Lumiere in London  hosted a premiere today.

The documentary begins with an introduction to the political and social landscape of Italy in the early 20th century. Cousins takes us through the aftermath of World War I, the rise of socialism and communism, and the general sense of disillusionment and unrest that permeated the country during this time. It is against this backdrop that Mussolini and his fascist movement emerged, promising to restore order and pride to Italy.

Documentary the march on rome poster collage including Mark Cousins and Monica Costa posing for a mums magazine

Throughout the documentary, Cousins employs a mix of  little-seen archival footage, reenactments and analysis. Through his characteristically cinematic analysis and using a soft voice in contrast to the loudness of the fascists, Mark Cousins narrates the ascent of Mussolini in Italy and contextualises history through the here and now, holding a mirror up to a political landscape marked by a creeping far right and manipulated media.

One of the most striking things about the film is the way in which it highlights the role of propaganda in the rise of fascism in Italy. Cousins shows us how Mussolini and his followers used newspapers, posters, film and other forms of media to spread their message and garner support. He analysis propaganda documentary A noi! (To us) with such careful attention to details. He also emphasises the importance of the cult of personality that Mussolini built around himself, with his image being plastered everywhere from billboards to chocolate wrappers.

Another key theme of the documentary is the idea of collective memory and how it can be manipulated to serve political ends. Cousins demonstrates how Mussolini and the fascists sought to rewrite Italian history, presenting themselves as the true heirs of the Roman Empire and erasing the contributions of other groups, such as the Socialists and the Catholic Church. This rewriting of history, Cousins suggests, was a way for the fascists to justify their claim to power and to create a sense of national unity amongst the Italian people.

It fascinated me personally how Mussolini’s propaganda used religious language to justify his ascent to power. He wanted to be seen by people as the Saviour that Italy needed. Witnesses who were young during the March on Rome were swept up in the excitement of the moment. However, as the years went on and the true nature of fascism became clear, they came to regret their youthful enthusiasm. It is a poignant reminder of how easily people can be led astray by charismatic leaders and propaganda.

Overall, The March on Rome is an excellent documentary that offers a fascinating insight into a dark period of Italian history. Cousins handles the subject matter with sensitivity and nuance, never shying away from the difficult questions that arise when examining the rise of fascism. The use of archival footage makes the film feel grounded in reality, while the reenactments add a sense of drama and urgency.

The film is also notable for its relevance to contemporary issues. In an era of rising nationalism and far-right movements, The March on Rome serves as a cautionary tale about the dangers of allowing charismatic leaders to manipulate public opinion and rewrite history. It is a timely reminder that the lessons of the past are still relevant today.

In conclusion, The March on Rome is a must-see documentary for anyone interested in the history of fascism or the political and social forces that shape our world. Cousins has created a powerful and thought-provoking film that will leave a lasting impression on viewers. The March on Rome should be shown in all British schools as part of the national curriculum in which history holds no significant place creating a big educational gap in our children’s generation.

 

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Cinema Made in Italy opens its 2023 edition in London 9th – 13th March 2023

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