Roberto Rossellini

Siamo donne 1 July 2006

Section: rossellini

Categories: Film / in-a-cinema

Five segments directed by five directors with five actresses, most notably Ingrid Bergman.

I dislike such mixed (up) efforts and this one lived down to my expectations.

  • Title: Siamo donne
  • Directed by: Gianni Franciolini, Alfredo Guarini, Roberto Rossellini, Luchino Visconti, Luigi Zampa
  • Writing credits: Cesare Zavattini, Luigi Chiarini, Giorgio Prosperi, Suso Cecchi d'Amico
  • Starring: Ingrid Bergman, Anna Magnani, Isa Miranda, Alida ValliFive segments directed by five directors with five actresses, most notably Ingrid Bergman.
  • Year: 1953
  • Cinema: Deutsches Filmmuseum, Frankfurt

Germania anno zero 28 May 2006

Section: rossellini

Categories: Film / in-a-cinema

I have rarely seen a film with such a clear partisanship for children as expressed in this one. The compassion of its content is imprinted on the celluloid and the old, scratchy sound-track.

My further comments reveal the narrative, so stop reading if you want to see the film without knowing the story.

The film follows a 12-year-old boy named Edmund as he tries to survive in the devastation of post-WWII Berlin. He carried the full burden of providing for his family, with a sick father, a sister, and an older brother who was perhaps in his late teens or early twenties and was afraid of leaving their building for fear of being arrested by the allied forces for his participation in the war as a German soldier.

Like his previous films, Paisà and Roma, città aperta (Rome, Open City), the film was shot amid the actual circumstances of post-war Europe. Rossellini used non–actors, which I love. The result is the highest form of documentary, of documentation, where we are aware of seeing footage of persons reciting their lines in the physical world, and where the fiction is part of the documentation. The narrative was distilled out of life and experience and the outlook of the filmmaker, which again brings us back to his partisanship for children in the horror and trauma of war.

Edmund was buffeted through the city from person to person, all either adults or children who were older than him, struggling to survive and find some orientation, including moral guidance. He was desperately trying to find a heart but kept ramming up against broken bloody ribs laid bare in the cadaver of the society that had just collapsed. And I don’t merely mean Nazism. The Third Reich was almost a peripheral echo in the ruins of Berlin. The neglect, exploitation, fear, egotism, pedophilia, and pedagogy he met with are endemic to our era still.

In one scene he is sent out by a former school teacher to sell a disc gramophone recording of a speech of Hitler’s. The teacher was of course just using him; he sent him to meet two British soldiers interested in buying the recording. The meeting took place in the bombed–out Reichstag (the parliament). The teacher lent him a hand–cranked gramophone player to demonstrate the recording. He played it for the soldiers behind the shattered walls of the Reichstag with the sound of Hitler’s voice echoing weakly from the devastated building — with the few persons outside scavenging through the debris looking up in jaded wonder at the building.

So I am revealing less than I expected of the narrative, it is too visual and too painful to reduce it to words. But the boy ends up killing himself by leaping from the concrete shell of a building.

Of interest: Rossellini had effectively been a fascist under Mussolini’s rule in Italy. As a young man he got a position turning out propaganda films for Mussolini, possibly due to his friendship with Mussolini’s son. I haven’t seen those earlier films, but I would like to. The implications of this, the impact of material forces and circumstances in society on a person’s outlook and practice, and that person’s ability to change, are still resonating in my mind.

  • Title: Germania anno zero
  • Directed by: Roberto Rossellini
  • Writing credits: Roberto Rossellini, Max Kolpé
  • Starring: Edmund Moeschke, Ernst Pittschau, Ingetraud Hinze, Franz-Otto Krüger, Eruch Gühne...
  • Cinematography: Robert Juillard
  • Year: 1948
  • Cinema: Deutsches Filmmuseum, Frankfurt

Paisà 26 May 2006

Section: rossellini

Categories: Film / in-a-cinema

Through six segments over three reels, this film circles in on the paisanos of the country and of WWII in Italy, who towards the end increasingly become partigiani, partisans.

The film starts with the Allied forces’ invasion of Sicily and follows the collapse of the Nazi presence upwards, north, towards final battles along the Po River.

Diverse characters are presented sympathetically, without stereotyping: Italian peasants, U.S. GIs, German soldiers, monks, priests and a rabbi.

What I felt most strongly was the strong pull towards the resistance as the film developed. One moving passage was when an American nurse, Harriet, finds out that a partisan leader she knew well had been wounded. She took leave from her work at a hospital and set out to find him through territory occupied by the Nazis. She spoke fluent Italian, by the way. During conversation with some partisans she encountered, she learned that he had died of his wounds. This scene was beautifully done, with the two characters sitting in the doorway of a bombed out building with rays of the sun cast upon them as tears well in her eyes.

  • Title: Paisà
  • Directed by: Roberto Rossellini
  • Writing credits: Sergio Amidei, Klaus Mann, Federico Fellini, Marcello Pagliero, Alfred Hayes, Roberto Rossellini, Annalena Limentani (English dialogue), Vasco Pratolini
  • Starring: Carmela Sazio, Dotts Johnson, Maria Michi, Dale Edmonds, Renzo Avanzo, Gar Moore, Carla Pisacane, Alfonsino Pasca, Robert Van Loon, Harold Wagner, William Tubbs, Raymond Campbell, Mats Carlson, Merlin Berth, Leonard Penish, Harriet Medin, Benjamin Emanuel
  • Cinematography: Otello Martelli
  • Year: 1946
  • Cinema: Deutsches Filmmuseum, Frankfurt