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Producing the ideal fascist landscape: nature, materiality and the cinematic representation of land reclamation in the Pontine Marshes

Social & Cultural Geography
Informa UK (Taylor & Francis)
Publication Date
  • Political Science


Using previously unpublished material from the LUCE archive and the State Archives in Rome, this article examines how filmmaking became part and parcel of the process of ‘taming’ nature in the Pontine Marshes under Mussolini’s regime. Fascism perceived the undisciplined and unproductive nature of the ‘death inducing swamps’ as something that had to be extinguished from the face of Italy, to make way for an ideal fascist nature that would nurture the ideal fascist subjects. We argue that the success of turning the swamps into the ideal fascist landscape owed as much to the extensive investment of labour power, capital, and technology, as it did to the careful staging of every step of the project through newsreels representations. Although the planning and land reclamation institutions were responsible for the material production of the reclaimed land, the LUCE institute was instrumental in actively turning this new land into the ideal fascist landscape. The paper’s contribution is twofold. First, by offering a detailed empirical analysis of the production of landscape in Italy under Mussolini (an area under-researched in landscape studies), the paper contributes to the wealth of research on landscape and nationalism. Second, by bringing to light unpublished material from the LUCE archives, the paper offers a new dimension to the study of the social construction of modernist ‘natures’, and asserts the wealth that visual methodologies can bring into this enquiry. This dimension of our research also contributes to studies of Italian fascism, which so far, focus on architecture, political meetings, events, festivals, and theatre, but largely ignore cinematography as an important means through which Mussolini’s regime promoted its ideology.

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