Starring: Aldo Fabrizi, Anna Magnani, Marcello Pagliero
Director: Roberto Rossellini
Running Time: 104 mins
Rome, Open City (Roma, città aperta) is an Italian film about a neighbourhood in Rome during the Nazi occupation in 1944 who attempt to help a prevalent resistance leader evade capture by the Nazis.
This may not be one of the best war films you’ve ever seen, but it has a uniquely brutal reality to it that is really impressive to see on screen. Filmed in January 1945, just months after Rome was liberated, this is an absolutely fascinating film to watch from a historical point of view, whilst it also provides some impressive emotional drama, although nothing too exceptional given the nature of the time when it was made.
So, I want to start with the fact that this is effectively one of the first post-war films of all. Released 5 months after V-E Day 1945, it was filmed in Rome amongst the ruins that remained from the brutal fascist occupation during the Second World War. Because of that, you can see that this has an unmatchable sense of brutal realism, as Rossellini surveys the devastation as his backdrop to this story.
Seeing as this was being made as the war in Europe was still going on, there’s also a clear sense of exhaustion and pessimism amongst all the actors. The performances are all good regardless, but, just as the setting does, the men and women in this film are clearly tired and fed up with the war, which makes their performances one hundred percent convincing when it comes to conveying the feelings of the Roman people during the occupation.
That’s by far the most impressive thing about Rome, Open City, the fact that it is so clearly harsh and brutal given that it was all made right in the midst of the Second World War.
The story itself doesn’t quite compare to that brutal realism, but it does provide some fascinating insight into the lives of the people trapped in the city at the time. Although the plot makes some bold choices, and there are some really shocking and emotionally affecting moments, the main atmosphere that comes from this film is one of exhaustion and frustration at the situation of the war.
As such, the film often feels a lot like a documentary showing the lives of the Roman people at the time, which isn’t a bad thing, but this may not be the great Schindler’s List-esque war drama that you’re looking for as a result. So, overall, I’ll give this a 7.4.