Visconti sketched out the Idea for Rocc e i suoi fratelli(Rocco and his Brothers) in spring 1958 producer Franco Cristaldi. He worked on a treatment with Vasco Pratolini the novelist and Suso Cecchi D' Amico his preferred scriptwriter, who had collaborated wilh him on Senso (1954) and later on virtually all ol Vlsconti's subsequent films. The treatment was ready that summer, but Visconti and Cristaldi had some disagreements and the project eventually went to the producer Goffredo Lombardo at Titanus. Pratolini withdrew and the script was worked on by five writers (inciuding, Visconti). each of whom wrote one of the five 'chapters' around which the film is structured. Each-chapter took the name of one of the five Parondi brothers in order of age from ihe eldest to the youngest. The script assumed its final form by autumn 1959. Shooting began in Milan on 22 February 1960 and was completed by 2 June 1960 at Civitavecchia.
The film credits list a collection of short stories. II ponte della Ghisolfa, by the Milan writer. Giovanni Testori, as having inspired the film in the same year Rocco was released, Visconti staged Testori's L'Ariadala and in 1967 the his La monaca di Monza ( The nun of Monza). The most important stories for Rocco in the collection are the trilogy ' 'Il ponte della Ghisolfa' ( Ghisolfa Bridge) 'I ricordi e i rimorsi...' (A bed, A room...) Which are about a love Affair of a woman with her husband s brother. The story a told from her point of view, one of the best
passages is her meticulously detailed revulsion lot her husband as he comes to bed, drunk and smelly, and her Image of ihe more delectable brother. which makes the reality of her husband. beside her in bed, so intolerable. In Rocco the differences between Rocco and Simone, joined over Nadia, find part of their symbolic chargein a physical contrast: the fresh, sweet beauty of Rocco (Alain Delon) and the shambling, unshaven, mean, desperate Simone (Renato Salvatori) , with the appearance. but also the stink of decadence.
A similar situation of incestuous passion, more closely related to Rocco because of Its setting among Italian Immigrants In Brooklyn, Is Arthur Miller's, play. A View from a Bridge, which Visconti directed for the theatre In 1958 al the time he was thinking about Rocco. The Miller play (Visconti directed Millers Death of a Salesman in 1949, The Crucible in 1955, and After the Fall in 1965) not only Involves incest and 'brotherly' jealousy, but traditional South-ern Italian 'honour' put at risk in a modern, urban selling, close to what occurs in Rocco.
Other literary sources for the film were important during the writing of the script: Thomas Mann's Joseph and His Brethern and Fyodor Dostoevsky's The Idiot. Mann and Dostoestvsky (like Testun and Miller) were particularly favoured by Visconti Visconti's Death In Venice (1971) and his 1956 ballet production. Mario e il mago (Mario and the Magician), were based on Mann stories. In 1946, Visconti staged an adaptation by Gaston Baty of Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment and adapted the Dostoevsky story for the film of the same name, Le notti bianche (1957)
The Mann novel has a definite presence in Rocco. The novel, like the film, juxtaposes mythic primal forces and historical, social ones: and it concerns, as Rocco does. the confrontation of different worlds and moralities, which in the film are an industrial Italian North and a primitive rural South. Visconti. Like Mann, was fascinated with disintegrating worlds, values In crisis, the historicity erf relations. for which, in both novel And film, the family is the historical and psychic centre.
The character of Rocco is directly based on Dostoesky's Prince Myshkin in The Idiot, the pure innocent in a corrupt world whose Goodness ends by provoking Evil. It is joined to other Dostoevskian themes of guilt, remorse, sacrifice. The link between a moral universe and a social historical one. the crisis in the one felt in the other, is characteristic of Visconti and also of Mann), and more generally of a realistic-melodramatic literature of the late nineteenth century whose best Italian expression was not in letters but in lyric opera, particularly the operas of Giuseppe Verdi.
Beside the Testori stories there are three Italian sources for Rocco: Giovanni Verga's 'veristic' novel, / Malavoglia, Antonio Gram-sci's fragmentary essay, 'The Southern Question', and, overall, the operas of Giuseppe Verdi.
The juxtaposition, Verga and Gramsci, the novel and social analysis, is at the heart of Rocco, and is central to Visconti's other purely literary choices, works which construct circles of relations between private and public, the fictional and the historical, family and society. Verga and Gramsci have an extra, specific importance for Rocco, a film about the experience of Southern Italian immigrants coming from the poor rural South to the developed Italian North.
The 'Southern Question' in Italian politics has been a question of economic difference, class exploitation, political deals, but also involves the shape of Italian culture, the cultural price of development, the destruction of traditional relations by capitalist ones. The film is a product of that culture, not simply representing the 'Southern Question', but representative of it.