The very end
Roma Città Aperta is an Italian drama film directed by the recognized Roberto Rosselini. The film was released in 1945 just after the long and devastating World War II had come to an end. However, the movie is set during the war and during the invasion of Nazi’s in Rome, Italy. Upon release of the film in 1945, Italians still felt the devastation of the war, but worked to recover and not dwell on such a horrible period of their lives. This is one reason why Roma Città Aperta was not popular among Italian audiences. No one was willing to relive the horror of the war now that it had finally ended. Critics on the other hand, raved about the film and gave the story great ratings. It was not surprising to find out the film was greatly appreciated by critics overseas as well. For example, Bosley Crowther who was a critic for the New York Times released a statement saying, “the total effect of the picture is a sense of real experience, achieved as much by the performance as by the writing and direction (Crowther, 1946)”. To critics such as Crowther, the film is remembered as one of Rosselini’s greatest works of Neorealism. Neorealism is an era in Italian Cinema also known as Rosselini described it himself, “simply the artistic form of truth (Rosselini, 62)”. Rosselini presents the truth of humanity, religion, tragic endings, and suffering, to classify Roma Città Aperta a work of authentic Neorealism.
The significance of Roma Città Aperta was to capture the historical events and tragedy that had come from World War II. Being classified as a Neorealistic film, the story exposes the intimate lives of many partisans in Rome who risked everything they had against the German oppression. The actors were meant to represent everyday Roman citizens in the roles of their everyday life. They spoke Italian dialect as they would have normally. The film sets were not produced and created to represent real life, they were real life. They were the actual streets of Rome, the churches of families, and the homes of citizens. This is because film sets were expensive, were damaged from the war or were too expensive for the budget of the movie. The film did not include color, green screens, voice overs, or any special editing, which made it all the more realistic and relative to Neorealism.
The story is particularly centered on the character of Giorgio Manfredi played by Marcello Pagliero. Giorgio is the leader of a resistance against Germany group and who the Nazis are out to get and stop immediately. The character of Giorgio is a strong, loyal, selfless individual who chooses to be brutally tortured and killed, rather than admit the secrets of the resistance group to the Nazi soldiers. He saves the lives of many people by keeping his word and not betraying all of the poor individuals fearing for their lives. Similar to the way Roman Christians believe Jesus died for their people, Giorgio died for his people in Rome. Neorealism works of art were said to show, “all that there is within a man (Fellini, 62)”, and that is exactly what Rosselini did through the humane character of Giorgio Manfredi. Giorgio is portrayed as an everyday citizens without the realization of his own heroism.
Pina (played by Anna Magnan) and Francesco (played by Francesco Grandjacquet) are a featured couple in the movie that Giorgio spends some time hiding out with. Pina is pregnant and planning her wedding with Francesco. Pina and Franceso’s love story unfortunately ends in the depressing tragedy that is the true reality of the 1940’s. Francesco is taken by the Nazis and Pina runs after him only to be fatally shot as her son runs to her side.
Previous to being taken, Francesco although not religious, reveals some of his social and political views when stating, “It is better to be married by a Partisan Priest than a fascist”. Pina also repeatedly questions her religion during the war. She ponders, “Doesn’t he (God) pity us?” and want this suffering to end? This loving couple represents many couples of this time era and many working class people slowly beginning to lose fate in religion, humanity and in life.
Don Pietro is the Partisan Priest played by Aldo Fabrizi in Roma Città Aperta. It is in Don Pietro’s monastery that the many people in town seeking refuge hide. He is interrogated by the Nazi police and because he is a priest, does not reveal the confessions of his people. He is then forced to witness the torture of his friend Giorgio. Don Pietro reminds Giorgio, “he who fights for justice and truth walks the path of God” and with that, Giorgio refuses to speak a clue to the Nazi’s about his resistance group, further frustrating them from gaining evidence. The priest closes his eyes to pray as he hears the light of a match and screaming from Giorgio as he begins to be tortured. This presents the realistic idea that even with the connection to God and good, no one was able to avoid the trauma of WWII, even the priest himself.
Perhaps the most dramatic scene of the movie is that of the very last. The priest is faced with his inevitable death. He is shot and killed by multiple Nazi’s in front of the many children of his town that aspired to be like him. The drama of the scene is not shed in a positive or light-hearted way. To some viewers, this may be disappointing, especially myself as I am so accustomed to the Disney fairy tale, and happily ever after. But to others, that may be the drama they seek in a film. The reassurance and the courage to admit that these events did happen. As Rossellini had once declared, “I had absolutely no interest in telling a romanticized tale along the usual lives of film drama. The actual facts were each more dramatic than any screen cliche.”(Rossellini, 1960)”. This is where I can see how critic’s interest in this movie were so strong. Rossellini had taken the risk to defy the stereotype of drama movies. Moreover, he had taken that risk and succeeded because as he noted, the cliché may not have been there but the drama certainly was.
This ending concludes yet another link to neorealism with the idea that there are no happy endings. Also with the idea that these children who witness such a cruel death, represent the future for their people and their lives, as well as their children’s lives and beyond. Although they are living through such a violent and devastating time, they represent the need for change and hope, and the idea that the future is in their hands. Although a depressing movie, the audience is left to hope that all the sacrifices made by those everyday people, were worth something. The possible hope and anticipation is where I believe the true beauty of the film comes in- at the very end.
Works Cited (quotes)
Bondanella, Peter. “Italian Cinema.” Chapter 3- Masters of Neorealism. Pag. (61-65)
Crowther, Bosley. “MOVIE REVIEW THE SCREEN; How Italy Resisted.” The New York
Times. N.p., 26 Feb. 1946. Web.
https://www.facebook.com/aurever. “”Roma Città Aperta”, Il Capolavoro Di Rossellini Torna Restaurato Nelle Sale.” Il Fatto Quotidiano. N.p., 30 Mar. 2014. Web. 02 Feb. 2017.
Roma, Città Aperta = Rome, Open City. Dir. Roberto Rosselini. Prod. Giuseppe Amato.
By Sergio, Amidei. Minerva Films, 1945. DVD.
Walsh, Martin. “JUMP CUT REVIEW OF CONTEMPORARY MEDIA.” Revaluating
Rossellini. Jump Cut: A Review of Contemporary Media, 1977, 2004, 1977. Web. 31 Jan. 2017.