History and art have always had an intersecting relationship, and each helps us to acquire a better understanding of the other, since artistic works help us to visualize the zeitgeist of a particular point in history. The connection between art and history is most apparent when the radical changes that befall society through historically important events, especially conflict, are followed by sweeping changes in society, which trickle their way down into the minds of artists and creators, whose works subsequently reflect these changes. We cannot understand these works and their relationship to their respective period of time simply by isolating them into individual components like art style, artist, and location. They are socially and historically charged, part of a larger network of intersecting relationships that factor in concepts like ideology, material, and culture. We can examine the analytical power of this framework, better known as actor network theory, in a post-WWII European landscape, a period heightened by rapid social changes as the citizens of the formerly war-torn continent worked to rebuild and recover. When examining the artistic output of vanquished nations, mainly Italian neorealist films and German Trümmerfilmen, in a framework built around the principles established in actor network theory, we can see how the historical, political, social, and cultural developments established in the wake of European fascism’s unceremonious collapse is reflected on film when compared to the victorious United States, whose infrastructure and film industry remained mostly unscathed.
- Victor and Vanquished: An Examination of Divergent Post-WWII Film Movements in Germany, Italy, and the United States