Visconti's second feature (five years after Ossessione in 1942) was an improvised drama produced by the Communist Party, filmed with and among Sicilian fishermen in the village of Aci-Trezza. An overwhelmingly stark chronicle of a family which strives but fails to break out of the poverty trap - they try to cut out the middlemen by embarking in what one might call 'free enterprise', with disastrous results - La Terra Trema‚ stands as a masterpiece of neo-realism, a social conscience cinema of proletarian ways and means. Yet, despite this, it's no less 'operatic' than the director's later decadent melodramas: it surges with great tides of emotion. The film is distinguished by its vivid camerawork, at once poetic and 'documentary'. (Francesco Rosi and Franco Zeffirelli, it may be noted, served as assistant directors.) Visconti only finished the film by selling some of his mother's jewellery and an apartment in Rome. Yet, true to his breeding, he brought home one of the boys from the film and installed him as his butler.