Rome, Open City
Directed by Roberto Rossellini
Cornerhouse, 4 May 2014
The ending is spectacular, the boy soldiers marching back with an arm around each other’s shoulder, the city, St. Peter’s Basilica, below. Nothing in what occurs before quite prepares you for it.
I would call it a gripping wartime thriller, but perhaps no more. It is set during the German occupation of Rome, which allows Italy to be portrayed as a victim of German aggression and not at any time an ally. That’s the first false note. Pretty much all the Italians are noble: self sacrificing mothers, priests and partisans who die for their ideals. One wonders how they got around to electing Mussolini at all.
By contrast, the top Nazis represent unmitigated evil and, moreover, are queer: a vampish lesbian, a mincing sadist. There’s an Austrian deserter who bottles it by hanging himself before being called in for interrogation.
On the plus side, Anna Magnani is in it and she’s wonderful, of course. One of the best scenes is when the boys return home late one night and are chastised by their worried parents one by one. Fierce love.
Rome, Open City is showing again today, details here.