Germany Year Zero Screen 98 of 12 reviews

Germany Year Zero

1948

Germany Year Zero Poster
  • What a film to drop on 1948! I was surprised to hear it got a so-so reception. Yes, it makes its points through unnecessary contrivances, as does most of neo-realism. But the haunted face of the young boy, the simultaneous ambiguity and clarity of Nazi Germany's defeated citizens, and most of all the restless camerawork—always circling—were ahead of their time. A raw cry to hold onto life, no matter the circumstance.

  • An unrelenting searchlight and a humane act of commiseration, Rossellini’s final panel in his War Trilogy wanders through the rubble of Hitler’s children. Foreign soldiers casually drop by the hollowed-out ghost town looking for mementos, underground furnaces glow like hellfire, the Führer’s voice echoes out of an old phonograph: a vehemently subjective vision, the junction of Italian neo-realism and German expressionism.

  • As the dead tyrant’s vaingloriously hectoring voice resounds through the political Ground Zero of the land he led to its destruction, Rossellini’s notion of the physical power of ideas comes to life with a sardonic irony—one which foreshadows the incomparable pathos to which the movie builds, in its focus on young Edmund and the warp that such ideas wreaks on his unformed character.

  • Though less heralded than its companions, Germany Year Zero deserves equal recognition... In spite of subplots aplenty, the best scenes in Germany Year Zero cast Meschke as a poignant tour guide through the rubble-filled streets and building frames, an innocent forced to grow up so fast that in the end, he can’t do it. In the aftermath of war, there’s simply too much tragedy to bear.

  • Rossellini closes out his war trilogy with an investigation of what the war had done to Germany, Italy’s former ally turned oppressor, now fallen into defeat and disgrace. The previous films had been ensemble pieces; Germany Year Zero (1948) is a single-character study—and what a study, what a character! ...Germany Year Zero burns through its 73 minutes with relentless energy, powered by a fluent moving camera and drum-tight narrative logic.

  • Selection clearly plays as important a role in defining an auteur as any sort of pure “creation,” especially when some form of documentary truth is what’s ultimately at stake. A gesture of despair that emotionally fuses personal grief with an intense empathy for the dispossessed, Germany Year Zero is finally something closer to a cry of pain than a carefully worked-out and conceptualized statement, and this is what grants it a lasting authenticity.

  • Through his experimentation with cinematic form, Rossellini transfers to the spectator the bodily and emotional experiences of those recovering from the shock of war. Indeed, while mainstream reportage operates all kinds of cliched evasions, Rossellini’s cinematic experimentation enables us as spectators to develop our capacity for compassion.

  • Filmed in austere conditions, the technical imperfections of Open City effectively contribute to the film's overall cinema verite appearance... The rawness of Open City elicits a sense of realism to the film, as if experiencing an actual recorded document of a tragic period in history. It is also a testament to humanity's tenacity and perseverance, to the inexorable power of compassion and dignity. In essence, a chronicle of the soul.

  • Like the Neorealist genre it is part of, Germany, Year Zero challenges the silver-screen dream of Hollywood escapism and confronts the viewer with a series of aberrant images, moments and ideas, allowing us to experience the moments and feelings as they wash over us.

  • To the critics of the time, it seemed that Rossellini had betrayed the tenets of neorealism by introducing melodrama, an elliptical narrative, and intimations of a Christian consciousness. It now appears as Rossellini's first mature work, pointing to his masterpieces of the 50s.

  • ++

    Cahiers du cinéma: Amédée Ayfre
    November 1952 | Cahiers du Cinéma: The 1950s (pp. 183-185)

    This film's documentary's element plays no claim to any special passive 'objectivity'; its 'neutral' presentation is never cold or impersonal. If reason and thesis play no part, there are always awareness and involvement. Social polemic there is, but not propaganda. But above all, the objective, subjective, social, etc., are never analysed as such; they are taken as a factual whole in all its inchoate fullness, a bloc in time as well as volume, and we are not spared a single second or gesture.

  • A subsistence thriller. Creeping percussion accompanies 13-year-old Edmund in his tour of Berlin's bombed-out buildings, through streets and subways, as he scrapes together a couple dozen paltry Deutschmarks off black market deals. Everyone he meets bristles with hunger and resentment. Across the bleak, episodic plot, an allegory evolves: Edmund as the New Germany; his ailing, sentimental father as the Old.

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