Rome, Open City, Roberto Rossellini’s first film is on the What Else to Watch list following my screening of Bicycle Thieves as I continue my exploration of DK Canada’s The Movie Book.
Decidedly melodramatic the story is set in World War II Rome, and the story weaves a group of characters together, as they work to get the leader of the Resistance to safety. The story is solid, and the performances are good.
Giorgio Manfredi (Marcello Pagliero) is an engineer, a Communist, and one of the leaders of the Resistance flees his apartment when the SS show up on his doorstep. Fleeing to a friend’s home, he is taken in by the widowed, pregnant, and soon to be re-married Pina (Anna Magnani). She is set to marry his friend, Francesco (Francesco Grandjacquet), a fellow Resistance member.
There is lots of family issues running through the film, and all the characters have their melodramatic character beats to flesh out the story, including the local priest Don Pietro (Aldo Fabrizi) and Pina’s son, Marcello (Vito Annicchiarco) who are both helping the fight against the Nazis in their own way.
But someone, within their circle of friends is being used by the Gestapo, and all of them may be caught up in the net of the villains’ before the film comes to its conclusion.
A neo-realist film with decidedly, very melodramatic overtones, Rome, Open City is a well shot film that tells a story of World War II Rome, and while not based on facts, you can see that it could have been inspired by countless things that happened before and during the war.
Not everything would work in this story today, but there are some great moments in the film, and Don Pietro just through his characterisation brings a lot of humour to the film, including putting one over on the Nazis, and turning some statues from looking at one another, when one of them is a naked woman. It also allows you to genuinely like his character, so are more involved with his actions, and his fate in the story.
I was also rather taken by Maria Michi’s performance of the tormented Marina Mari, and the arc her character goes through.
Exploring relationships, and the reality of life in Rome during the war, Rossellini makes a compelling film that entertains, captivates, and races to a satisfying conclusion. In fact that ending is brilliant, and stunning.
This is yet another film that I had never heard of, and now that I’ve seen it, I wonder how I could have missed it for so long. It’s a fantastic example of filmmaking, and world cinema.
But don’t take my word for it. Pick up a copy of DK Books’ The Movie Book today and find some classic cinema to watch!