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In the autumn of 1944, in Northern Italy, the German soldiers resist to the advancement of American forces in an Italy divided in fascist soldiers, communist partisans supported by the civilians and thugs. An American platoon led by Sergeant Malone is assigned to deliver supplies to the front. Meanwhile, the German Lieutenant Gunther tries to keep the morale and discipline of his needy soldiers, and faces many other problems when the Italian troop leaded by the aristocratic Lieutenant Gianini joins his doomed troop. The thugs leaded by Rossini act like vultures, plundering the remains after the battles. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
An Effective Portrayal of a Complex Corner at the End of WW II
"The Fallen" at first seems like an old-fashioned World War II movie, opening with almost "Hogan's Heroes"-like humor with "Milo Minderbinder" of "Catch-22" like wheeling-dealing, but gradually develops into a moving and complex portrait of soldiers.
Most English-language films we have seen about GI's interacting with locals have been in French forests, but this is set in the more complex social, political and military environment of northern Italy at the close of the war, dealt with superficially in "Captain Corelli's Mandolin" and almost contemporaneously in Roberto Rossellini's "Paisà", which was also a series of vignettes.
The very large ensemble that gets hard to differentiate individually includes Americans closing in on the Germans who are equally allies and occupiers to Italians buffeted by deposed fascists, Communist partisans, displaced peasants and apolitical criminals, an unusually diverse array of characters who all claim to be nationalists.
Like a Bill Maudlin cartoon, this is war from the GI's eye view; we don't see generals or hear discussions of strategy or tactics, just orders to follow. The American soldiers, as drawn by the script of Nick Day and Caio Ribeiro, are the most stereotyped from old movies, the hulking hillbilly, the Italian guy from Brooklyn who is delegated to do translations and community relations as the locals eagerly ask if he knows their cousins, the alcoholic officer in charge, etc. In the second half of the film, the Americans' portrayal sharpens up as the supply guys in the quartermaster corps are thrust into the front lines for the first time and there's less dialog and more taut action.
The German soldiers are the least stereotyped, despite many close-ups on their black crosses and Heil Hitler salutes. They are shown as professional, competent soldiers doing their job far from home in a crumbling situation, with limited supplies and manpower. Though sounding more like World War I trench movies (and characters on all sides recall relatives who were inspiring veterans), their discussions of the futility of continuing to fight are plausible and add complications to their actions.
The Italians are a mix of stereotypes and complexities. The sex-starved peasant women are just plain silly, and the Army, regardless of accurate issues of unpreparedness, looks like buffoons. The Mafiosi-like thug and his henchmen are the usual, but their interactions with the armies are interesting, even if it is never explained how they've avoided the war up to now. The refugees are both as haunted and resilient as "Mother Courage".
While far less bloody than "Saving Private Ryan", it is unpredictable what will happen to characters we get to care about and is unsparing in showing the personal devastation of war. Debut feature director Ari Taub does the fight scenes very up close and personal, and very effectively portrays a real sense of actual combat, particularly for a low-budget film.
The developing serious tone is undone many times by the melodramatic score which overemphasizes comedic elements of the absurdity of war. Period songs by interesting voices are used effectively throughout.
With each nationality speaking in their native tongues, the subtitles are black-lined and always legible. The subtitles are also thoughtfully provided even when characters are speaking English but with thick accents. Language communication issues are a key part of this story.
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