Sunday 29 April 2018 2.56pm
‘Rossellini 1945 & 1948’ 2018
I saw Rome: Open City when I was studying film at NSW University in 1983. The film didn’t mean anything to me and didn’t have any great impact on me. It was a world and a war that had happened forty years ago. Today, it is a war that happened 75-80 years ago. I only know more about what happened in Europe in the Second World War because of research I’ve had to undertake, to better understand what was happening in Europe between 1932 and 1945, because of my 100 Greatest Films Ever project.
Last night I showed myself a double-bill of two Roberto Rossellini films. One – Rome: Open City (1945) – was made in Italy during WWII (1944-45), and the other – Germany Year Zero (1948) – was made amongst the rubble of Berlin. Both are superb. Both are extraordinary. And both have an insider’s view of what it was like to live during those years 1944-1945 and after the defeat of Hitler when average German citizens are trying to find a life that has food, electricity and meaning.
I would like to know more about what was happening in Rome during the last year of WWII. It’s apparent from Rome: Open City that Italy had an underground movement that was working against the Fascists.
As for post-world war two Berlin, I saw some amazing footage in Billy Wilder’s film A Foreign Affair (1948) of the devastation that reduced parts of Berlin to a series of broken buildings and hollow shells. That is nothing compared with what Rossellini photographed to make his brilliant and heart-breakingly sad film about what Hitler brought upon his own people through his megalomaniacal desire to conquer Europe and England in Germany Year Zero (1948).
What’s particular interesting is that Hollywood made dozens and dozens of war films about the underground working against the Nazis. Some of the occasionally felt realistic but a lot of them were melodramas and many of them soap operas. There’s no comparison with these two Rossellini films which are very realistic. There’s a brutality and cinema verité to the film that has an enormous impact which Hollywood’s Hays Code (which was never seriously challenged to around 1952, ironically with a Rossellini film, The Miracle ) would never have allowed in an American film. The matter-of-fact way in which it explores the plight of the Italians and the attitude of the Nazis makes it one of the most important films ever made.