“In Italy for thirty years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love; they had five hundred years of democracy and peace and what did they produce? The cuckoo clock.”
- Orson Welles
I think it is fitting to have a quote from Orson Welles the day after the Oscars. Welles is best known for his movie Citizen Kane. This was the first movie that he directed and it is considered one of the best movies of all time by various agencies such as AFI and Sight and Sound. The tragedy, for Welles, is that he would never live up to the same greatness of his first movie. He was doomed to live forever in his own shadow.
What I like about this quote is the examination of people under pressure. For whatever reason, arts always prosper when in times of great distress. Welles points to the Renaissance as an example of this and compares it to the perennially peaceful Swiss.
Anthony Bourdain, one of my favorite writers/television personalities, always talks about places that have good food usually have some history of oppression or foreign rule. Places like this experience so many different influences and have to make do with so little while under oppressive rule. It is in these times of necessity that brilliance happens! I think that this is what Welles is speaking to above. Art is expressive so it is in times where expression is necessary under the oppressive rule that we see these large bursts of collective creativity.
What do you think of Welles’ quote? Share below, there is no wrong answer.