Rome, Open City Screen 93 of 17 reviews

Rome, Open City

1945

Rome, Open City Poster
  • Rossellini’s tense, bloody, death-haunted film conjures an authenticity that’s based less on its quasi-documentary style than on a vision that brings ideas to life. The drama reveals a deep grid of underlying connections: the unity of Communists and nationalists against the German occupation and their Italian Fascist allies, and the popular legitimacy of the resistance. It offers a template for a postwar renewal of Italy, as well as of Italian cinema.

  • Much of the power of Rome Open City comes from the mastery of the staging, a mastery that comes in part from simplifying and orchestrating the principal points of dramatic interest for maximal effect.

  • Its justly celebrated documentary aesthetic and naturalistic performances, aided by the filmmakers' budgetary restrictions and the ruinous state of the postwar Italian film industry, help the work achieve moments of devastating, near miraculous beauty.

  • This crystal clear 4K restoration - quite astonishing given the problematic processing the film suffered - gives the streets and tenements of Rome a vibrant tactility, but it's Rossellini's humanism, so tenderly and exquisitely detailed, that gives the film its lasting power. It's a film about survival, not just in the physical sense but in the retention of hope and ideals - social, political - in the face of brutality and oppression.

  • Neo-realism in Rossellini’s hands isn’t so much a repudiation of artifice as a profound complication of it -- melodrama and documentary chaffing against each other in a mise en scène pieced together out of rough scraps of celluloid.

  • With Open City, Rossellini uses cheating, lying, stealing, and dying — the elements of melodrama — to reveal a new reality defined by surveillance and reconnaissance, occupation and militarism.

  • Anna Magnani’s performance in Rome Open City is full of such outsized passion and resilience that she became an icon... Her martyrdom is one of the all-time classic movie moments, but it happens only halfway through a movie that has many more shocks to come. The second half, with its unremitting scenes of torture and execution, remains a bleak tribute to citizens who lost their lives—and in the final shot, a new generation that wouldn’t forget what it saw.

  • Rome Open City is not just a milestone in the history of Italian cinema but possibly, with De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves, one of the most influential and symbolic films of its age, a movie about “reality” that has left a trace on every film movement since. It is also the story of a fascinating and atypical adventure in filmmaking, a masterpiece malgré soi, a unique piece of cinema that was the result, in a way, of serendipity.

  • Its impact was that of a raw slice of reality, something that had seldom been seen in the movies since the general retreat from the streets to the studio in the late 1910s.

  • No film defines [postwar Italian cinema] better than Roberto Rossellini's OPEN CITY, a work of great humanism, political conviction, and stylistic invention. Rossellini shot this story about Nazi-occupied Rome entirely on location just two months after the European theater of WWII declared its ceasefire. The drama is constructed from the rhythms, places, and literal debris of reality, and it's difficult to imagine any independent fiction filmmaker who isn't in some way touched its example.

  • Filmed in austere conditions, the technical imperfections of Open City effectively contribute to the film's overall cinema verite appearance. The uneven film stock, salvaged from scrap reels, create a realistic, documentary appearance, blurring the distinction between the created story and the realized drama of postwar turmoil... 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

  • Its realistic treatment of everyday Italian life heralded the postwar renaissance of the Italian cinema and the development of neorealism; the film astonished audiences around the world and remains a masterpiece.

  • ++

    The Nation: James Agee
    April 03, 1946 | Agee on Film (pp. 183-186)

    Even these failures in depth and complexity are sacrifices to virtues just as great: you will seldom see as pure freshness and vitality in a film, or as little unreality and affectation among the players; one feels that everything was done too fast and with too fierce a sincerity to run the risk of bogging down in mere artistry or meditativeness—far less the WPA-mural sentimentality and utter inability to know, love, or honor people to which American leftists are liable.

  • The postwar context was a time of major transition for the Italian woman and as a result, women were often prescribed contradictory roles with conflicting expectations. Although the female struggle is marginalized by directors like Rossellini, their characters exceed their creators and prove to be diverse, controversial, and essential to an understanding of Italian neorealism.

  • The mixture doesn't completely gel; this certifiably Great Film isn't always a very good movie. The problem isn't melodrama. The problem is thuddingly crude melodrama of the sort that intelligent audiences in the silent era would've jeered at... And yet, the bad walks hand in hand with the good: that same drive toward melodrama lends many of the films strongest scenes an operatic, larger-than-life emotional intensity:

  • This narrative imposition of unity on ideologically disparate groups, while it has some historical basis, is in itself a fascist-like ironing-out of complex, contradictory reality, so that the film’s one conflicted character – Marina – becomes a “scapegoat” (12). To modern viewers, the most obnoxious project of idealisation and normalisation performed by Rome, Open City is in the sphere of sexuality.

  • Can't say it really fails the Holocaust genre, considering that it probably was one of the pioneers, but as far as resistance-in-secret films go, Rome, Open City is distractingly messy, unsure whether it wants melodrama, of which there is plenty, or reality, of which it evinces little. More disconcerting is how utterly unambigious it is, portraying a rather simplistic us v. them characterization that just fails to move me in any way...

More Links