Saturday, 19 November 2011

"Between Past and Future": ROME, OPEN CITY Studies

Updated November 19, 2011
Frame grab from Roma, città aperta/Rome, Open City (Roberto Rossellini, 1945)
Projected on the war torn landscape for a weary people, Rome Open City poetically serves the goals of unification and restoration. In many respects, this film both conforms to and promotes an ideal image of a courageous, Resistant and unified population – from communist intellectuals, to catholic priests, to working class women and their children. Open City maintains the comfortable melodramatic schema of Rossellini’s earlier Fascist-era films in which the forces of good (the Italian people) struggle triumphantly against the forces of evil embodied in the Nazi general Bergmann and his deviant cronies. The director’s fondness for his people culminates in an apologetic portrayal of Italian fascists as either wretched or unwilling collaborators. However, in the end, Open City’s epic scope effectively precludes the possibility of another film like it: all the “fathers” (Manfredi, Pina, Don Pietro) are dead and the child soldiers are abandoned to the city, suspended “between past and future”. The conclusion, the partisan priest’s execution, witnessed by the children of his parish, forewarns of the fragmentation, destitution, and moral poverty to come. With his last words, “non è difficile morire bene, è difficile vivere bene” (it’s not difficult to die well, it’s difficult to live well”), Don Pietro intimates the struggles ahead. [Inga M. Pierson, Towards a Poetics of Neorealism: Tragedy in the Italian Cinema 1942-1948', PhD Thesis, New York University, January 2009  97-98] 
Another teaching week beckons, and Film Studies For Free's author looks forward to pondering, for the umpteenth, pedagogical time, that intensely strange film Roma, città aperta/Rome, Open City (Roberto Rossellini, 1945).

There are some excellent resources on this film, and on related issues of (neo)realism, that are openly accessible online. So, andiamo felicemente with one of FSFF's regular studies of a single film.

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