Edmund, a young boy who lives in war-devastated Germany after the Second World War has to do all kinds of work and tricks to help his family in getting food and barely survive. One day he meets a man who used to be one of his teachers in school and hopes to get support from him, but the ideas of this man do not lead Edmund in a clearer or safer way of living...Written by
This film is part of the Criterion Collection, spine #499. See more »
You're so selfish. You don't care about getting food. You only care about eating it.
Didn't I tell you to send Edmund to work?
You don't do anything. You just hide, and yet you want to eat and drink. You don't ask where I go every night. All that matters is that I come back with a couple of cigarettes for you.
Did I smoke them?
No, but you know that cigarettes are like money.
Should I thank you for that? Nowadays everybody does it.
They do worse things, too.
Then tell me to sell myself!
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As a child of the post war Berlin ruins myself, I confess this film had a special relevance. But nothing could have prepared me for the sheer impact that Germany Year Zero has upon the soul. Roberto Rosselini captured a tragedy that has been largely ignored and his haunting work screams the pain of post war civilian suffering in Berlin louder than any documentary.
Not only filmed in the very streets where a million died only months before, all those appearing in Stunde Null were quite clearly living the very experience they were enacting. These were not actors. Their performances are clumsy and strained without the polish of professional training or Hollywood editing. But that was the magic of this production. This was not drama but rather a window of reality. Their faces were scarred by the terrors they had just survived and one can only wonder at their courage to enact their own daily suffering for the entertainment of others.
The essence of the plot is simple enough. It is the story of ordinary German civilians trying to survive the starvation and deprivations of 1945 Berlin. The central character is a 12 year old boy, Edmund, who has to endure anything and everything in order to provide for his family. And in the end.....
Well nobody knows what really happened to Edmund Moeschke, the ex Hitler Jugend who was playing himself. After filming the external shots in Berlin the entire cast were taken to Rome in 1946 where the interior scenes were put together. And of course most of them attempted to remain there. Edmund disappeared from history and probably met his end somewhere in the Roman streets. Certainly he has never emerged to claim the accolades that would undoubtedly be poured upon him were he to only mention his name.
But Edmund will never be forgotten because his tragic story touches the soul and speaks for millions of other youngsters who were so cruelly sacrificed in that terrible conflict. This is not a film: it is a masterpiece.
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