Rocco and His Brothers

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Rocco and His Brothers
Italian theatrical release poster
Directed by Luchino Visconti
Produced by Goffredo Lombardo
Screenplay by Luchino Visconti
Story by Suso Cecchi d'Amico
Starring Alain Delon
Renato Salvatori
Annie Girardot
Katina Paxinou
Music by Nino Rota
Cinematography Giuseppe Rotunno
Edited by Mario Serandrei
Les Films Marceau
Distributed by Astor Pictures Corporation[1]
Release dates
  • September 6, 1960 (1960-09-06) (Italy)
  • June 26, 1961 (1961-06-26) (United States)
Running time
177 minutes
Country Italy
Language Italian
Box office 2,173,480 admissions (France)[2]

Rocco e i suoi fratelli (English: Rocco and His Brothers) is a 1960 Italian film directed by Luchino Visconti. Set in Milan, it tells the story of an immigrant family from the South and its disintegration in the society of the industrial North. The title is a combination of Thomas Mann's Joseph and his Brothers and the name of Rocco Scotellaro, Italian poet who described the feelings of the peasants of southern Italy.[3]

The film stars Alain Delon, Renato Salvatori, Annie Girardot, and Claudia Cardinale, in one of her early roles before she became internationally known.[4] The film's score was composed by Nino Rota.


The drama is a study of a rural Italian family led north from a poor farm in Basilicata to Milan by the matriarch (Katina Paxinou). Presented in five distinct sections, the film weaves the story of Vincenzo, Simone, Rocco, Ciro and Luca Parondi as they struggle to adapt to life in a large, impersonal city.

The plot revolves around the brothers' attempts to assimilate to life in a bustling metropolis. Vincenzo, the eldest brother, is already living in Milan when his mother and brothers visit. Despite early friction between his mother and Ginetta, Vincenzo's fiancée, he soon gets married and starts a family of his own. After settling down, Vincenzo does not interact much with the Parondi brothers. Simone struggles to adapt to urban life, and his attempts to become a competitive boxer are interrupted when he falls in love with Nadia (Annie Girardot), a prostitute who is pursued and desired by both Simone and Rocco (Alain Delon). Simone's love affair with Nadia is unrequited, as she loves only Rocco. By the end, Simone had lost his boxing career because of his obsession with Nadia, and he kills her in a jealous rage when she rejects him once more. Rocco is the middle child who decides to sacrifice his own happiness to keep his family together. Rocco often saves Simone from a variety of disasters, such as when Rocco recovers and returns an expensive brooch that Simone had stolen from their mutual boss in a dry cleaning shop. A pivotal scene in Rocco and Simone's relationship comes when Simone rapes Nadia in front of Rocco, who then gives her up to his brother out of a tragic, misplaced desire to do whatever it takes to keep his family whole. Near the end of the film, Rocco shares an anecdote about stonemasons, who at the start of any building project, throw a stone into the shadow of a passerby in order to symbolize the sacrifice that is needed to erect a structure. Rocco's own habit of sacrificing his money and well-being can be likewise analogized as an preserve his family after their upheaval from country life. Ciro is the second-youngest brother, and perhaps by observing the trials of his elder brothers, decides to learn from their mistake and mimic his brother Vincenzo. To that end, Ciro becomes engaged to a local woman from a good family and finds steady work in the city at an automobile factory. However, unlike Vincenzo, Ciro intervenes frequently in family matters, and at the end of the movie, he turns in Simone to the police for murdering Nadia. The youngest brother Luca does little but watch quietly in the background during much of the movie. Despite the fact that Luca spent the least time in Southern Italy by the time of the family's move to Milan, by the end of the film, he is the only brother who wants to return to the country life. In one of the last scenes of the film, Luca is speaking to Ciro near a factory and tells him that he will return to the south even if none of the other brothers join him.

In typical fashion for a director known for helping build Italian neorealism, the film ends with no substantive resolution, but with clouds of doom hanging over the family.

During shooting, the film was seized and Visconti asked to delete the scenes showing Nadia's rape and murder. Visconti was not vindicated until a court judgement of 1966.[5]



Critical response[edit]

The film critic for The New York Times, Bosley Crowther, gave the film a positive review and appreciated the direction of the film and acting. He wrote, "A fine Italian film to stand alongside the American classic, The Grapes of Wrath, opened last night ...It is Luchino Visconti's Rocco and His Brothers (Rocco e i suoi fratelli), and it comes here garlanded with laurels that are quite as appropriate in this context as they are richly deserved...Signor Visconti has clearly conceived his film and that is what his brilliant handling of events and characters makes one feel. There's a blending of strong emotionalism and realism to such an extent that the margins of each become fuzzy and indistinguishable...Alain Delon as the sweet and loyal touchingly pliant and expressive, but it is Renato Salvatori ...who fills the screen with the anguish of a tortured and stricken character. His raw and restless performance is overpowering and unforgettable...[and the] French actress Annie Girardot is likewise striking as the piteous prostitute..."[6]

The staff at Variety magazine lauded the drama, and wrote, "With all its faults, this is one of the top achievements of the year in Italy...Scripting shows numerous hands at work, yet all is pulled together by Visconti's dynamic and generally tasteful direction. Occasionally, as in the near-final revelation to the family of Simone's crime, the action gets out of hand and comes close to melodrama. Yet the impact of the main story line, aided by the sensitive, expertly guided playing of Alain Delon as Rocco, Annie Girardot as the prostie, and Renato Salvatori as Simone, is great. Katina Paxinou at times is perfect, at others she is allowed to act too theatrically and off-key."[7]

When the film was released in DVD format, critic Glenn Erickson said, "A major pleasure of Rocco and his Brothers is simply seeing its portrait of life in working-class Milan in 1960. Beautifully directed in the housing projects and streets of the city, this is a prime example of a film which will accrue historical interest simply because it shows so much of how people lived and what places looked like (now) 40 years ago."[8]


  • Venice Film Festival: FIPRESCI Prize, Luchino Visconti; Special Prize, Luchino Visconti; 1960.
  • Venice Film Festival: Silver Lion
  • David di Donatello Awards, Italy; David, Best Production (Migliore Produzione), Goffredo Lombardo, tied with Tutti a casa (1960); 1961.
  • Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists: Silver Ribbon, Best Cinematography, B/W (Migliore Fotografia in Bianco e Nero), Giuseppe Rotunno; Best Director (Regista del Miglior Film), Luchino Visconti; Best Screenplay (Migliore Sceneggiatura): Pasquale Festa Campanile, Suso Cecchi d'Amico, Luchino Visconti, and Enrico Medioli; 1961.
  • Bodil Awards, Copenhagen, Denmark: Bodil, Best European Film (Bedste europæiske film), Luchino Visconti (director); 1962.


  1. ^ FILM DISTRIBUTOR PLANS EXPANSION: Astor Pictures Officials Will Outline New Program of Co-Production Deals By EUGENE ARCHER. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 18 Feb 1961: 12.
  2. ^ Box Office information for Rocco and His Brothers at Box Office Story
  3. ^ Henry Bacon, Visconti: Explorations of Beauty and Decay, Cambridge University Press, 1998, p.105
  4. ^ Rocco and His Brothers at the Internet Movie Database.
  5. ^ Buss, Robin. Italian Films, "Rocco and His Brothers," page 142. London: Anchor Press Ltd. ISBN 0-7134-5900-X.
  6. ^ Crowther, Bosley. The New York Times, film review, January 28, 1961. Last accessed: December 31, 2007.
  7. ^ Variety. Film review, September 6, 1960. Last accessed: December 31, 2007.
  8. ^ Erikson, Eric. DVD Savant, DVD/film review, November 11, 2001. Last accessed: december 2, 2009.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
The Magician
Special Jury Prize, Venice
Succeeded by
Peace to Him Who Enters