The location: Nazi occupied Rome. As Rome is classified an open city, most Romans can wander the streets without fear of the city being bombed or them being killed in the process. But life for Romans is still difficult with the Nazi occupation as there is a curfew, basic foods are rationed, and the Nazis are still searching for those working for the resistance and will go to any length to quash those in the resistance and anyone providing them with assistance. War worn widowed mother Pina is about to get married to her next door neighbor Francesco. Despite their situation - Pina being pregnant, and Francesco being an atheist - Pina and Francesco will be wed by Catholic priest Don Pietro Pelligrini. The day before the wedding, Francesco's friend, Giorgio Manfredi, who Pina has never met, comes looking for Francesco as he, working for the resistance, needs a place to hide out. For his latest mission, Giorgio also requests the assistance of Don Pietro, who is more than willing as he sees...Written by
A positive review that explains the director's motives.
The Neo-Realistic film Open City relives the tragic suffering of Italy and the people's resistance to Nazi occupation during World War II. The story depicts how a liberation group tries to conceal its leader, Giorgio Manfredi. The role each plays in the resistance reveals an intimate portrayal of their lives. Whether for religion, love, rebellion, greed, or nationalism these rebels attempt to make sense of war and cope with their problems. The omniscient point of view provides an understanding of each character's motivation to survive their dreadful situation. The director, Rossellini, made Open City an attempt to "restore the nationalism from the chaos" left by the war. In order to restore the nationalism for his audience, Rossellini reconciled the characters' differences through their common motivation for better lives.
Brecht said, in referring to Neo-Realism, "it doesn't show real things, its shows how things really are." I feel that despite the low budget and quality of stock, Rossellini made an excellent film full of real life images. The strength of the screenplay, through its poignant representation of the wartime struggle, made Open City an outstanding film. Rossellini properly explained the human condition in a way that Italians and all viewers could empathize. However, I am not convinced the film's message came across correctly, as a nationalistic film. In the documentary, Neo-Realism, a gentleman thought it depicted Italians poorly. This contradicts the entire message of the film.
The screenplay by Sergio Amidei and Federico Fellini powerfully captures the importance of the characters' personalities set in this wartime struggle for survival. The motivation of Pina and Francesco is love. They enjoy a love for their country, their son, and their lives. Especially poignant was the scene in which they sat in the stairwell and remembered the good times and hoped for better. Pina's sister, Marina is motivated by greed. She has had many lovers and even sold her friends for her materialistic needs. She finally sees the effect of her horrible deeds; but then it is too late when Manfredi is dead. Giorgio Manfredi is motivated by his nationalism for Italy and loyalty to the liberation movement. His patriotism and loyalty to friends are idealized in the imprisonment and a torture scene where he refuses to talk and is at peace with his fate as a martyr. Don Pietro Pellegrini is motivated by faith. Don Pietro believes that God's Will has brought the war. He believes prayer and forgiveness are the answers to suffering. Nevertheless he is also a practical man. As a forger he shows he can contribute more than prayer to the struggle. His compromise as a religious figure suggests that there are no black and white lines separating roles and ideals of the independence movement.
Marcello, Pina's son, is motivated by rebellion and group behavior. Marcello, although young and immature, is an excellent representation of the citizens who organized and rebelled against the Nazis. The point is made that even at his age he could play a role in the war. Marcello therefore symbolizes the significance of the most insignificant person and the struggle of all Rome. Also, as a youthful figure he also symbolizes the future of Rome and Italy. In the final scene he and his friend console each other as they march back to the city. This suggests that Italians must comfort each other and rebuild after the war.
The film's low budget is evident through its various technical flaws. The film stock was a poor quality and originated from different reels. In splitting the stock there lacks a consistent flow to the film. There are points in the film where sound is completely eliminated and others where camera angles are suddenly adjusted, as if they were editing over a previous scene (editor-Eraldo Da Roma). A lack of continuity is seen in the scene where a car is filmed approaching a building. When the car stops, the film seems make a quick edit and then switches to a new camera angle as people leave the car. Another flaw is the poor quality of lighting in the film. In an effort to put certain emphasis on a person or object, light floods some areas. This makes it impossible to view it without difficulty. Additionally too much light is given when a "medium shot" is given to characters as they sit giving a monologue. Ingrid, the Nazi's girlfriend, often receives too much light when she speaks. Perhaps it is her pale skin or the cinematographer's desire to emphasize the face resulting in overexposure (cinematographer-Ubaldo Arata). This distracts from the movement and speech of the actress. Finally, the colors of the apartment walls are too bright. As characters move throughout the hallways and stairways, the bright light background reduces their depth and texture.
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