Enlarge text

Olmi and the Cinema Section Edison-Volta

Ermanno Olmi (Bergamo, 1931) started his career as filmmaker as a young man only twenty years old, while working for the Milanese electrical company Edison-Volta in order to pay for his studies at the Accademia di Arte Drammatica (Drama Academy). The quality of his first documentaries was such that he attracted the attention of the company management. Thus, something that started as a purely amateurish activity during the working men’s recreational club became a real Cinema Section directed by Olmi until 1961, producing about thirty short films on all aspects of the life of the electrical industry group.
Indeed, Edison played a major role during the most fertile period of Italian industrial cinema. Between the 1950s and 1960s, all the major companies in Italy – Montecatini, Fiat, Finsider, Eni…- produced (or financed the production of) documentaries whose purpose was to display the latest developments of their industrial activities. However, many of these films turned out to be truly artistic productions, competing in festivals dedicated to the genre of short films (It goes without saying that Olmi’s films won many awards).
The experience in the Cinema Section Edison-Volta was central to Olmi’s development. In his documentaries, one perceives many themes of the fully grown director, such as his empathic representation of human labor (a sort of “heroic” work ethic) and his interest in the extended rhythms of nature. It is not by chance that the first feature film by Olmi closely followed the pattern of his documentary work., The young director started off in cinema in 1959 with the film Il tempo si è fermato in which the protagonist is a caretaker of the dam of a hydroelectric reservoir, a figure that Olmi had already used in the films produced on behalf of Edison.  

Copyright 2007 © Fondazione Ansaldo, Centro per la cultura d'impresa