To mark the 70th anniversary of Italy’s 1945 liberation from fascism, the Milan-based duo We Are Müesli developed an interactive story based on the country’s 20 months of partisan resistance. Called Venti Mesi (20 months), the series of vignettes designed by Claudia Molinari and Matteo Pozzi covers all aspects of the Italian resistance, from a conflicted priest watching trains depart for concentration camps to a German soldier and factory worker tensely negotiating a checkpoint, and a child dreaming that bombs are stars.
Venti Mesi was released in Italian last fall for the City of Sesto San Giovanni’s “Oggi, 25 aprile 1945” project, and in English earlier this year as a free download for Mac or PC on itch.io. It was also recently nominated in the Indie Game category of the first Emotional Games Awards, a new initiative to examine how interactive experiences can be emotionally compelling in ways not traditionally associated with games. Although to call Venti Mesi a game is a bit misleading. You have choices in the narrative, but it’s hard to tell the impact of any decision: as the months march forward, you experience the hardships of various characters in a series of different segments, each inspired by a real event.
Venti Mesi commences with the Armistice of Cassibile on September 3, 1943, when the Kingdom of Italy signed a truce with the Allies and plunged the country into a civil war between the resistance and the Nazi-supported Fascist Italian Social Republic. The stories are told with flat animation and drained color; the faces are characterless and distorted, as if from a Bauhaus poster. It’s a very different aesthetic from We Are Müesli’s 2013 Hieronymus Bosch tribute, Cave! Cave! Deus Videt, although akin to their new release, The Great Palermo, on the cultural heritage of the Sicilian city. The style reflects a minimal, modernist influence in mostly static animation, accompanied by Francesco Fontana’s heavy piano music. While the digital story is brief, and deeper context for each scene might make it more emotionally compelling, it’s an experience that makes you reflect on those small human moments that often slip through the cracks of history.
We Are Müesli’s Venti Mesi is available to play for free on Mac or PC.