I bambini ci guardano (The Children Are Watching Us) (1944)
A very early Vittorio De Sica effort, The Children Are Watching Us was originally released in Italy as I Bambini Ci Guardano. Director De Sica collaborated with another neorealist pioneer, Cesare Zavattini, on the screenplay. The film, a real tearjerker, concerns a young mother (Isa Pola) who can't stand the pressures exerted on her by family responsibilities. She deserts her husband (Emilio Cigoli) and her brood, permanently ruining the life of her four-year-old son, Prico (Luciano de Ambrosis). Avoiding the rococo gestures and dramatic overstatement that might have attended this film had it been made in Hollywood, De Sica fashions a subtle tale about real people caught up in a real situation. De Sica's sensitivity toward the younger cast members of The Children Are Watching Us would manifest itself in many of his formative films, notably Sciuscià and The Bicycle Thief. Made in 1942, the film was not released in Italy until 1944. … More
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Critic Reviews for I bambini ci guardano (The Children Are Watching Us)
A painfully moving portrait that shows the affects of a family break-up has on a sensitive 4-year-old boy and destroys his childhood innocence.
The painful and necessary maturation of a child and of Italian cinema
The final minutes of The Children Are Watching Us comprise one of those searing movie moments, with images you'll never forget
Audience Reviews for I bambini ci guardano (The Children Are Watching Us)
It was 1942 when a prominent name in neorealist cinema, Vittorio De Sica directed one of his earliest masterpieces "The Children Are Watching Us". It wasn't really released in its home country though, until two years later! While this film does not belong in the category of his later films which dealt with poverty stricken working class lead characters (The Bicycle Thief or Shoeshine to name a few), it is certainly an important film and one of De Sica's finest works.
This poignant drama tells the heartbreaking story of a little 4 year old boy named Prico (Luciano De Ambrosis), living in a middle-class Italian household with his parents Nina (Isa Pola) and Andrea (Emilio Cigoli) and the kindly governess Agnese (Giovanna Cigoli). On one particular visit to a park with his mother, Prico happens to spot his mother talking to a young stranger, Roberto (Adriano Rimoldi). While it is made clear to us viewers that she is having an affair, it is implied that little Prico is only surprised about seeing his mother up close with a stranger. After all, what can an innocent little boy like him know!
An incident one particular morning makes Andrea and Agnese aware that something is up with Nina. Nosy ladies from the neighbourhood soon start talking and it becomes increasingly difficult for a distressed Andrea who struggles to keep Prico away from getting corrupted by the gossip running around about his mother..but to what avail?
Infidelity is not uncommon. In fact a lot of such stories abound almost everywhere. But normally we only hear of such things and it becomes just another living room discussion topic that doesn't seem like a big deal. But imagine something like this happening in your own house...committed by someone who you love and regard very highly and it becomes the single-most disturbing thing in your life that you simply cannot shake off even if you wished to. Of course, De Sica stays far away from the pedestrian approach of telling such a story and creates sheer magic on screen by developing it through the eyes of a little boy who is so young and innocent, he may not even be able to tell the difference between right or wrong. He may not even be aware of the gravity of the situation his family is in. He does not understand the anguish of his father who is clearly embarrassed and cannot stand the gossip-mongering. He does not understand that it is the very reason that his father sends him away for some time to stay at his Grandma's.
De Sica's genius lies in the manner of conveying the emotions of the little boy to the audience. The boy doesn't say anything. He does get dispirited and perhaps somewhat scared on seeing his mother in the arms of another man. He doesn't mention seeing his mother with someone else to his father. He probably knows that what he has seen isn't right, but chooses to stay silent. One stand-out scene when a teary-eyed Andrea confronts his son and puts him in a very difficult situation by asking him an awkward question about his mother, is a work of towering magnificence as De Sica takes close-up shots of the boy's and Andrea's faces. The pain so visible in a devastated Andrea's eyes and an equally sad look in Prico's face who has to acknowledge the shattering truth about his mother that a boy his age doesn't deserve to know or even speak of. Those soulful eyes speak volumes!
The acting is outstanding from all of the lead cast:
Emilio Cigoli as Prico's father, Andrea. He portrays the role of a loving and caring father, a true gentleman who is aghast at his wife's behavior, with such intensity; it really bewilders us viewers why Nina would go around with someone else when she has a husband like him.
Giovanna Cigoli is brilliant as Agnese the governess who is a part of the family and is like a mother to little Prico.
Isa Pola as Nina, the adulterous mother of Prico is fantastic as well.
But the one performance that gives this movie its added charm is that of little Luciano De Ambrosis. Your heart goes out to the character of Prico and there are moments in this film that make you wish you could just take away all his pain and relieve him of all his troubles. It is a performance for the ages and hats off to Vittorio De Sica for pulling off the challenging task of getting some great acting done from a boy so young. You have to see it to believe it!
Films like "The Children Are Watching Us" are a rarity. Vittorio De Sica indeed made a very bold film for its time. It is strange that this film lost out on the recognition and accolades that it so rightly deserved, as it is definitely one De Sica's best films. It needs to be seen by one and all. And for parents indulging in infidelity...it is a wake-up call!
De Sica's fifth film already shows his mastery of the medium. This portrait of loneliness and loss is a must for any neo-realist junkiesMore
"The Children are Watching Us" is another emotion filled and beautifully filmed masterpiece by Vittorio De Sica, who also made the timeless "Bicycle Thieves". This is another small scale drama that is touching, genuine and timeless in it's story of a child who bears witness to his parents demise and even more tragic circumstances. I couldn't take my eyes away from the screen and Luciano De Ambrosis (as Prico) gives a completely believable performance and Emilio Cigoli as the child's father is truly devastating in his performance. I can't recommend this one enough, much like "Bicycle Thieves", is a wonderfully compelling and emotion filled work from a master Director who specializes in these type of films and is worth a watch for anyone who enjoys cinema!More
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