Mario Monicelli’s La grande guerra is the most well known (and probably most beloved) Italian film on World War One. Released in 1959, and awarded with the Best Film prize at the Venice Film Festival (along with Roberto Rossellini’s Il generale Della Rovere), La grande guerra has greatly contributed in changing the traditional Italian canon of the war epic, both in the movies and in other cultural domains, a canon that dated back to the fascist era. Relying on a vast corpus of war memoirs, and on a huge international film tradition, the director and his screenwriters created the first realistic representation of the experience of the Italian soldiers in the trenches. Monicelli’s choice of mixing tragedy and comedy, in order to tell the story of two "yellow heroes", was object of debate, not just among film critics, but more generally in the public sphere. In the context of the Italian economic boom of the sixties, with its deep cultural and political transformations, this debate marked a watershed in the collective memory of the wars fought by the Italians during the first part of the Twentieth century.
Keywords: Mario Monicelli; Italian war experience; tragedy; comedy; economic boom.