Rodolfo Arnheim. Rudolf Arneheim's italian writings on cinema (1932-1939)
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It must have seemed to him like the most realistic war film, that night of February 1937 in Rome. The blast of cannon and the glare of searchlights on the horizon ruptured the silence of the city, reduced to darkness – like a cinema where the audience is immersed in the spectacle of a simulated air attack. Rudolf Arnheim (1904-2007) was a German Jew in Rome at the height of the Fascist regime. In this excerpt from his Italian diary, he is still unaware of the disaster that was shortly to befall him. The diary is a cardboard cover notebook of nearly three hundred pages full of illustrations, drawings, postcards, letters, newspaper clippings and, above all, notes and personal reflections, records of everyday events and travel reports, written in an instinctive and sensitive German. It is the inner voice of a man who was always keenly aware of the daily revelations of the world and the beauty of works of art, but also of the impact of history on everyday life. Then, towards the end, the writing style suddenly changes, turning to a drier register, abstaining from any digressions, as if prompted by fear. The last few pages of the diary tell of a man with trepidation, troubled by worries that turn into nightmares at night, but still lucid and indomitably attached to hope in the day – the illusion that preparing for the worst would be enough to escape death, as in a simulation, a movie.
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