Toxicity: Making the Toxic Visible in Italian Cinema

Robert A. Rushing

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This essay looks at two main questions. (1) Why is toxicity, despite its resistance to visualization in the documentary (according to Schoonover), so important in Italian film? As Roberto Esposito has argued, Italy has a long tradition of Italian thought characterized by a particular interest in the fragility and precarity of the human body and the body politic, part of biopolitical thinking; moreover, modern Italy has a tragic and all too well-established history of toxic dumping within the nation as well as beyond its borders, especially in Africa. (2) How have Italian fiction films rendered the toxic visible? I turn to a series of examples, in both art films and popular genres, to show how they manage to visualize both toxicity and its impacts through a series of highly charged fantasies: changes to body and mind that are simultaneously wrapped up in fantasies about gender, species, and power.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)244-255
Number of pages12
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 3 2020


  • Italian cinema
  • Toxicity
  • documentary
  • ecocriticism
  • gender
  • superhero
  • visibility

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Anthropology


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