Filmed shortly after the expulsion of the Nazis from Italy in 1945, Roberto Rossellini's "Roma, Città Aperta" ("Rome, Open City") is an early neo-realist classic following the life of resistance fighters as they struggle against the rule of their unwelcomed occupiers. Beginning life as the subject matter for two documentaries, one about a priest executed by the Germans following his capture as an agent of the resistance, and the other detailing the life of Roman children fighting against the Germans, the two ideas were then combined for a feature film on the suggestion of Federico Fellini and Sergio Amidei, who also wrote the screenplay. Starring mostly non-professional actors, though some of the lead roles were taken by established stars like Aldo Fabrizi and Anna Magnani, the film was made with little money and under difficult circumstances, hence the movie looking quite crude and having an almost documentary-like feel to it. But in many ways this is what gives it that extra feeling of authenticity, making this of greater interest than glossier, big-budget war movies could ever hope to achieve. All costumes, such as Nazi uniforms, are no reproductions and the war torn city is absolutely real, the knowledge of which only makes the film seem all the more gripping. And while for today's audiences the film may have more punch in regards to the circumstances of its making than necessarily its story, this is still an important film that helped boost the Italian film industry back to its feet after the war. The death scene of Magnani's Pina, in particular, has become an iconic image of neo-realism. (c) berlioz 2014
This review was originally written by myself, here:
During the latter days of Benito Mussolini's rule, a group of critics-turned-film makers wanted to show the realities of Italian life during this era. With so many commercially successful films being of a light hearted nature to keep the morale of the public during difficult years of war, it came as a surprise to audiences to see films which would be described as part of the 'Italian Neorealism' movement. These films would often show the poverty which was apparent in Italy at the time - questioning the leadership which the country ws under. As the censorship imposed under fascist rule was strict, the political messages in these films had to be kept to mere subtleties.
As part of his postwar trilogy, Roberto Rosselini created a film in collaboration with Cesare Zavattini - 'Rome, Open City.' It follows the Nazi invasion of Rome and a soon to be married couple.
Though the picture quality is poor and grainy, Rosselini uses it to his adavantage to give the film an added sense of realism with an almot documentary look. The largely non-professional cast fill their roles with experience in situations similar to the events occuring in the film.
Some of the scenes truly show that a masterful film maker is at work here - the death of a main character, gunned down by a Nazi soldier/official; the rebellion of a group of children; a bishop leaving children to play football. Rosselini also handles his political message(s) with aplomb. Early in the film, we see a bakery shop being raided due to the lack of food, with the heroine being involved - Rosselini's way of saying that under some circumstances, rebelling against the authorities is necessary.
With Rome, Open City, Rosselini arguably began the movement - though it was not necessarily the first Italian neorealist film.