(Co-Winner of the Palme D’or at the 1946 Cannes Film Festival)
Directed by Roberto Rossellini, Roma, citta aperta (Rome, Open City) is the story of an Italian resistance fighter who is targeted by the Nazis during World War II. With an original screenplay written by Federico Fellini and Sergio Amidei from a story by Amidei and Alberto Consiglio. The film is considered to be one of the pillars of the Italian neorealist movement that would change the face of Italian cinema following World War II. Starring Aldo Fabrizi, Anna Magnani, and Marcello Pagliero. Roma, citta aperta is a chilling yet suspenseful film from Roberto Rossellini.
In post-Fascist Italy where the Nazis have occupied Rome, a resistance fighter named Giorgio Manfredi (Marcello Pagliero) is on the run as he hides out various places to evade the Germans. Living next door to a woman named Pina (Anna Magnani, he asks her for the service of a local priest named Don Prieto Pellegrino (Aldo Fabrizi) who is also helping out the resistance in secrecy as he talks to Manfredi. While Manfredi decides to help the priest out in planning an upcoming wedding for Pina and her future husband Francesco (Francesco Grandjacquet). Yet, things become tense when Pina’s young son Marcello (Vito Annicchiarico) returns home to help pull some pranks on the Germans. On the day of Pina and Francesco’s wedding, things go wrong as the men try to leave while the women, children, and Don Prieto try to cover for them.
Instead, tragedy occurs as Manfredi and Francesco are forced to hide at the home of Manfredi’s girlfriend Marina (Maria Michi) who isn’t happy about Manfredi’s politics as he’s decided to flee to help out the resistance. With Don Prieto’s help, Manfredi and Francesco decide to flee only for Manfredi, Prieto, and an Austrian deserter (Aknos Tolay) get captured while Francesco was able to evade the Nazis. With Manfredi being the target so that they can get answers from him, a Nazi officer named Major Bergmann (Harry Feist) does everything he can to push Manfredi and Don Prieto to answer questions only to face defiance from the two different men who both share a common goal for Italy.
The film is a very loose story about a priest helping out a resistance fighter with the aid of a family during a tense period for Italy following the fall of Fascism and the Germans occupation of Rome. The screenplay by Sergio Amidei and Federico Fellini is a film where it’s about people trying to defy the Nazis without being seen and do things in secret. Yet, they have to live in this tense world where they have curfew and have their homes searched every now and then. They have young adolescent boys trying to do anything they can to fight back causing worry for the parents. All of this just adds to the suspense where it’s all about families, a few resistance fighters, and a priest trying to stick together. Meanwhile, there’s characters like Marina who feels neglected as she refuses to see the bigger picture of what Manfredi wants to do. It would later have repercussions for Manfredi as there’s those who are close to Mariana that have much more seedier intentions to capture him.
The direction of Roberto Rossellini adds to the chaos and tension that occurs in the film. Notably as it was shot in late 1944 after the Germans were forced out of Italy by the Allies in World War II. In order to achieve realism with this story, Rossellini chooses to shoot the film largely on location with non-professional actors to help tell the story. While there’s a lot of melodrama in the story, Rossellini chooses to keep the drama straightforward but also real such as the scene where the women are angry over seeing their husbands, brothers, and other men being captured. There’s something very engaging to that direction as well as a sense of terror that might occur.
The direction that is filled with very direct yet entrancing for the way the scenes in the church is shot or the intimate moments in the film involving the family hiding Manfredi. There’s also a lot of suspense in the scenes where both Manfredi and Don Prieto are interrogated. Rossellini just keeps the camera work and editing simple just so that these interrogations can find a way to build up some kind of momentum. Notably with Don Prieto’s interrogation where he is forced to watch torture to see if he’ll crack. What happens will unveil the kind of approach Rossellini will tell to achieve realism where a more conventional film would have something big happen. Instead, Rossellini strays from that to unveil what would really happen as the result is actually very heartbreaking as he creates a truly marvelous yet harrowing film.
Cinematographer Ubalto Arata does superb work with the film‘s black-and-white photography to display the sense of grit and terror for some of the film‘s daytime exteriors while the nighttime exteriors have a more eerie lighting to play up its chills while some of the interiors adds to the suspense that occurs in the film. Editor Eraldo Da Roma does excellent work with the film‘s stylized editing by utilizing rhythmic yet effective cuts to play up the suspense while using dissolves and wipes to smooth out the transitions. Art director Rosario Megna does terrific work with the set pieces created such as the interrogation room, the jail cells, and the bar that the German officers relax at.
The film’s cast is truly phenomenal for the ensemble that is created as it includes noteworthy performances from Aknos Tolay as the Austrian deserter, Joop van Hulzen as the disillusioned Nazi officer Captain Hartmann, Carlo Sindici as a corrupt police commissioner, Eduardo Passarelli as a sympathetic police sergeant, Carla Rovere as Pina’s more outgoing sister Laura, Nando Bruno as Don Prieto’s friend Augusto, and Giovanna Galletti as Marina’s very shady boss Ingrid. Other memorable performances include Maria Michi as the lonely and materialistic Marina, Vito Annicchiarico as Pina’s young son Marcello, Harry Feist as the cruel Major Bergmann, and Francesco Grandjacquet as Pina’s soon-to-be husband Francesco who reluctantly helps Manfredi with the fight.
Marcello Pagliero is superb as the determined Manfredi who tries to evade the Nazis while helping people out as he also fights them any way he can. Anna Magnani is great as the very fierce Pina who tries to keep her son in check while making sure things stay low-key as it’s an intense performance from Magnani. Finally, there’s Aldo Fabrizi in an intense yet very understated performance as Don Prieto Pellegrini as Fabrizi maintains a sense of calm but also drive as a man just wanting to do what is right. Even as he has to go face-to-face against a Nazi officer about what is right and tells him that no one is above God as Fabrizi truly delivers that performance with a conviction that is ravishing to watch.
Romma, citta aperta is a mesmerizing yet haunting film from Roberto Rossellini that features outstanding performances from Aldo Fabrizi and Anna Magnani. For anyone that wants a primer in the world of Italian neorealist cinema will find this film as a nice place to start as well as worthy introduction to the works of Roberto Rossellini. It’s not an easy film to watch for the way it goes for realism but it is a very compelling one to display the chaos that was happening in German-occupied Rome. In the end, Romma, citta aperta is an engrossing but astonishing drama from Roberto Rossellini.
Roberto Rossellini Films: (La Vispa Teresa) - (Desiderio) - (Paisan) - (L’Amore-Il Miracolo) - (Germany Year Zero) - Stromboli - (The Flowers of St. Francis) - (Medico Condotto) - (The Seven Deadly Sins-Envie, L’Envy) - (Machine to Kill Bad People) - Europe ‘51 - (We, the Women-Ingrid Bergman) - Journey to Italy - Fear (1954 film) - (Giovanna d’Arco al rogo) - (General della Rovere) - (Escape by Night) - (Viva l’Italia!) - (Vanina Vanini) - (Benito Mussolini) - (Ro.Go.Pa.G.-Illbatezza) - (The Carabineers) - (Rice University) - (Anno uno)
© thevoid99 2012