Rome Open City


Another classic film by Roberto Rossellini, Rome, Open City (Roma città aperta) (1945) is part of the director's neorealist war trilogy, which also includes Paisan (1946) and Germany, Year Zero (1947). Remarkably, Federico Fellini had a hand in writing the script for Rome, Open City, which is more involved than Germany, Year Zero (I have yet to watch Paisan). One thing that struck me in Rome, Open City is it dips into some dark subject matter that's rarely shown or even implied in movies of the era, such as (graphic) torture, cocaine addiction, homosexual relations between women, and prostitution. Something else extraordinary is that it was in production during the war, with work on the script beginning in 1944 and only a few weeks after the Allies kicked Germany out of Rome, so it's a war movie being made during the war. Aldo Fabrizi, Anna Magnani, and Marcello Pagliero all star, with Fabrizi's performance standing out because of his acting and the strong character he plays.


I had to refer to an online summary of the plot during Part 1 to check if I'd missed anything. I wasn't sure at the beginning which character(s) I should be focused on, as the role of protagonist is handed off from Giorgio Manfredi (Pagliero) to Don Pietro Pellegrini (Fabrizi) after Manfredi is identified by the authorities and as a result pretty much rendered useless to the Resistance. Now I realize this was intentional, to place the responsibility of "hero" on a character (a Catholic priest) who would be less likely, in the eyes of the audience anyway, to deal with the dangerous tasks at hand, compared to a practiced operative. But take care of them he does, and goes above and beyond them to bring a metaphysical level of understanding and heroism to the story.


Part 2 is intense, right from the start, in the apartment, all the way to the film's final gunshot. Again some surprising scenes, and surely Martin Scorsese nicked some ideas for his films from the torture scene and maybe also from the family quarrel in the kitchen in Part 1. Finally, the local SS commander, Major Bergmann (Harry Feist) is effeminate, nitpicky and effete. Just an observation, but this seems to be a common cinematic representation of Nazi leadership (think Adenoid Hynkel in Chaplin's The Great Dictator (1940) and Standartenführer Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) in Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds (2009)).




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