A failure in resilience: The corrupting influence of postwar Milan in Visconti’s Rocco and His Brothers


  • Hamid Khalili image/svg+xml University of Edinburgh

    Hamid Amouzad Khalili is a Lecturer (Asst. Professor) in Architectural, Interior and Spatial Design at the University of Edinburgh. He operates within the spaces between the theory and practice of architectural design, technology and media. Hamid has taught, developed and coordinated theory and studio courses in both architecture and film schools across three continents at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. His research primarily examines the intersection between architecture and digital narrative media such as film, animation, video games VR reality and varied types of immersive technologies.

  • AnnMarie Brennan image/svg+xml University of Melbourne

    AnnMarie Brennan is Senior Lecturer of Design Theory at the University of Melbourne. Her teaching and research investigate the history and theory of twentieth- and twenty first-century design and architecture, with a focused interest on the intersection between design and media, political economy, and machine culture. Some publications include Perspecta 32: Resurfacing Modernism (MIT Press), Cold War Hothouses: from Cockpit to Playboy (Princeton Architectural Press) and articles in AA Files, Journal of Design History, Design and Culture, Journal of Architecture, Candide, Inflection, and Interstices, among others.




cinema and city, Luchino Visconti, postwar Milan, film and architecture, Italian cinema


Abstract The 1960 Italian film Rocco and His Brothers (Rocco e i suoi Fratelli) is one of the greatest exemplars of Italian post-war cinema. The film depicts the disintegration and deterritorialization of an immigrant family from Lucania, a southern Italian village in Basilicata, and their relocation to Milan. The director of the film, Luchino Visconti, continuously alludes to the protagonist’s fascination with their hometown (paese). This nostalgic and wholesome image of paese contrasts the ubiquitous alienation and exploitation in the industrial North. The film is replete with signs and metaphors which explicitly and implicitly reinforce the evident tension between the immigrant family and an industrialized metropolis. Based on an interview with Mario Licari, Visconti’s assistant who accompanied him on location visits, this article offers an opportunity to revisit significant locations of the film such as Quartiere Fabio Filzi, the Alfa Romeo Factory, Milan Duomo, Ponte Della Ghisolfa, Parco Sempione, Stazione Centrale and Circolo Arci Bellezza. Underpinned by the theories of Giorgio Agamben, Antonio Gramsci and Andre Bazin this essay creates a theoretical framework that works in parallel with a detailed analysis of the scenes, original archival material, dialogues, places, and history of architecture of the locations. The article demonstrates how urban and architectural spaces not only accommodated the narrative of the film but shaped, twisted and structured the story of the masterpiece. The paper shows how Visconti succeeded in visualizing a ‘hidden’ Milan that was never appeared on the silver screen before Rocco and His Brothers.


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How to Cite

Khalili, H., & Brennan, A. (2022). A failure in resilience: The corrupting influence of postwar Milan in Visconti’s Rocco and His Brothers. Journal of Design for Resilience in Architecture and Planning, 3((Special Issue), 97–112. https://doi.org/10.47818/DRArch.2022.v3si074



Cinema and Architecture