Robert S. C. Gordon
Production, Myth and Misprision in Early Holocaust Cinema. “L’ebreo errante” (Goffredo Alessandrini, 1948)
This essay examines the production, style and narrative mode of a highly significant, if until recently largely forgotten early Italian Holocaust film, Goffredo Alessandrini’s “L’ebreo errante” (“The Wandering Jew”, 1948), starring a young Vittorio Gassman and Valentina Cortese. The film is analysed as a hybrid work, through its production history in the disrupted setting of the post-war Roman film industry, through its aesthetics, and through its bold, although often incoherent attempts to address the emerging history of the concentration camps and the genocide of Europe’s Jews. Emphasis is placed on its very incoherence, its blindspots, clichés and contradictions, as well as on its occasionally sophisticated genre touches, and confident stylistic and formal tropes. These aspects are read together as powerfully emblematic of Italy’s confusions in the 1940s over its recent history and responsibilities for Fascism, the war and the Holocaust, and of the potential for cinema to address these profound historical questions.