Two shoeshine boys in postwar Rome, Italy, save up to buy a horse, but their involvement as dupes in a burglary lands them in juvenile prison where the experience take a devastating toll on their friendship.
Vittorio De Sica
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
Open City, a powerful Italian film directed by Roberto Rosselini in 1946, is a historically-based story of the Italian Resistance movement and its struggle against Nazi occupation. The film is a searing indictment of the Nazis and a powerful portrayal of the dignity and courage of the Italian Resistance fighters.
With the city's studios destroyed, Rosselini was forced to shoot his film in the streets on stock that was purchased bit by bit, then taped together. It was shot almost immediately after the city was liberated from the Germans while the Germans still occupied the streets. Naturally, the quality of the print (although on DVD) is limited by the kind of stock that had to be used. The resulting film, however, is unique and deeply moving, and is a film of historic importance.
Open City was the first of the great Italian Neo-realist films (followed by Paisan, The Bicycle Thief, Shoeshine, I Vitteloni, and Umberto D). These films were characterized by the use of non-professional actors, natural lighting, location shooting, the desire to get closer to everyday reality, and the struggle for dignity of the masses of people.
Though I strongly recommend this film, there are a few minor quibbles. The Nazi leaders are portrayed as homosexuals who are associated with a decadent life style. This is contrasted with the Resistance representing the church and the family. Though I do not grant the Nazis much in the way of humanity, I think these broad strokes only obscure rather than clarify. Likewise, there is an over- identification of the Resistance as Communist. Though the Communist Party made up a good part of the Resistance, it also included Christian Democrats and Socialists.
Open City, though depressing in its presentation, remains hopeful. This hope for the future is symbolized at the end of the film by the children making their way back down into the streets of Rome after witnessing an execution. This attitude is also expressed by Francesco as he talks to Pina (Anna Magnani) in the flats, "We must believe it, we must want it,, We musn't be afraid because we are on the just path.We're fighting for something that must come. It may be long..it may be difficult, but there'll be a better world."
56 years later, we're still waiting.
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