Rome, Open City
|Rome, Open City|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Roberto Rossellini|
|Produced by||Giuseppe Amato
Ferruccio De Martino
|Written by||Sergio Amidei
|Music by||Renzo Rossellini|
|Editing by||Eraldo Da Roma|
|Distributed by||Minerva Film Spa|
|Release date(s)||September 27, 1945|
|Running time||105 minutes|
Rome, Open City (Italian: Roma, città aperta) is the literally translated title of a 1945 Italian war drama film, directed by Roberto Rossellini. However, in its English subtitled release it was simply named, Open City. The picture features Aldo Fabrizi, Anna Magnani and Marcello Pagliero, and is set in Rome during the Nazi occupation in 1944. The film won several awards at various film festivals, including the most prestigious Cannes' Grand Prize, and was also nominated for the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar at the 19th Academy Awards.
As German soldiers march through occupied Rome (an open city after 14 August 1943), engineer Giorgio Manfredi eludes them by jumping across the rooftops. A priest, Don Pietro Pellegrini, helps the resistance by transmitting messages and money. Don Pietro is scheduled to officiate Pina's wedding. Francesco, her betrothed, is not very religious, but would rather be married by a patriot priest than a fascist official. Her son, Marcello, and his friends have a small role in the resistance planting bombs. Pina's sister befriends Marina, Giorgio's former girlfriend, who betrays the resistance in exchange for drugs, fur coats, and other creature comforts.
The Gestapo commander in the city, with the help of the Italian police commissioner, captures Giorgio and the priest as they are escorting a German defector and Giorgio out of town. However, while the Nazis are taking away their captives, Pina sees her fiance loaded into a truck and runs after Francesco. She is gunned down by the Nazis as she chases the vehicle. The Gestapo interrogates Giorgio through torture.They attempt to use Pietro's religious beliefs to convince him to betray his cause, citing that he allies himself with atheists. Pietro responds that anyone who strives to help others is on the path of God whether they believe in Him or not. They then force Don Pietro to watch as Giorgio is tortured. When Giorgio dies without revealing anything and Don Pietro still refuses to crack, he is taken out and publicly executed in the early morning. The Nazis are deliberately trying to execute the priest before his parish finds out about his arrest the night before and can respond with a protest. However, parish altar boys show up to where Don Pietro is being executed and begin whistling which Don Pietro recognizes. The Italian firing squad are lined up to execute Don Pietro but deliberately miss him with their shots. The officer in charge of the squad walks over to the Don in frustration as soon as he realizes what happens and shoots the priest in the head. The movie ends.
- Aldo Fabrizi as don Pietro Pellegrini
- Anna Magnani as Pina
- Marcello Pagliero as Giorgio Manfredi, alias Luigi Ferraris
- Vito Annicchiarico as Marcello, Pina's son
- Nando Bruno as Agostino, the Sexton
- Harry Feist as Major Bergmann
- Giovanna Galletti as Ingrid
- Francesco Grandjacquet as Francesco
- Eduardo Passarelli as neighborhood Police Sergeant
- Maria Michi as Marina Mari
- Carla Rovere as Lauretta, Pina's sister
- Carlo Sindici as Police Commissioner
- Joop van Hulzen as Captain Hartmann
- Ákos Tolnay as Austrian deserter
By the end of World War II, Rossellini had abandoned the film Desiderio because conditions made it impossible to complete (it was later finished by Marcello Pagliero in 1946 and disowned by Rossellini). By 1944 there was virtually no film industry in Italy and no money to fund films. Rossellini had met and befriended a wealthy elderly lady in Rome who wanted to finance a documentary on Don Pieto Morosini, a Catholic priest who had been shot by the Germans for helping the partisan movement in Italy. Rossellini wanted actor Aldo Fabrizi to play the priest in reenactments and contacted his friend Federico Fellini to help get in touch with Fabrizi.
By then the lady had agreed to finance an additional documentary about Roman children who had fought against the German occupiers. Fellini and screenwriter Sergio Amidei suggested to Rossellini that, instead of two short documentaries, he should make one feature film that combined the two ideas, and in August 1944, just two months after the Allies had forced the Nazis to evacuate Rome, Rossellini, Fellini, and Amidei began working on the script for the film.
The devastation that was the result of the war surrounded them as they wrote the script. They titled it Roma, città aperta and declared publicly that it would be a history of the Roman people under Nazi occupation. Shooting for the film began in January 1945. The funding from the elderly Roman lady was never enough and the film was crudely shot due to circumstances, and not for stylistic reasons. The facilities at Cinecittà Studios were also unusable at that time due to unreliable electricity supply and poor quality film stock.
In order to authentically portray the hardships and poverty of Roman people under the occupation, Rossellini hired mostly non-professional actors for the film, with some exceptions of established stars including Fabrizi and Anna Magnani. On the making of the film, Rossellini stated that the "situation of the moment guided by my own and the actors moods and perspectives" dictated what they shot, and he relied more on improvisation than on a script. He also stated that the film was "a film about fear, the fear felt by all of us but by me in particular. I too had to go into hiding. I too was on the run. I had friends who were captured and killed." Rossellini relied on traditional devices of melodrama, such as identification of the film's central characters and a clear distinction between good and evil characters. Four interior sets were constructed for the most important locations of the film.
It was believed that the actual film stock was put together out of many different disparate bits, giving the film its documentary or newsreel style. But, when the Cineteca Nazionale restored the print in 1995, "the original negative consisted of just three different types of film: Ferrania C6 for all the outdoor scenes and the more sensitive Agfa Super Pan and Agfa Ultra Rapid for the interiors." The previously unexplained changes in image brightness and consistency are now blamed on poor processing (variable development times, insufficient agitation in the developing bath and insufficient fixing).
Critical response 
Rome, Open City received a mediocre reception from Italian audiences when it was first released, when Italian people were said to want escapism after the war. However, it became more popular as the film's reputation grew in other countries. The film brought international attention to Italian cinema and is considered a quintessential example of neorealism in film, so much so that together with Paisà and Germania anno zero it is called Rossellini's "Neorealist Trilogy." Robert Burgoyne called it "the perfect exemplar of this mode of cinematic creation [neorealism] whose established critical definition was given by André Bazin." Rossellini himself traced what was called neorealism back to one of his earlier films La nave bianca, which he claimed had the same style. Some Italian critics also maintained that neorealism was simply a continuation of earlier Italian films from the 1930s, such as those directed by filmmakers Francesco De Robertis and Alessandro Blasetti. More recent scholarship points out that this film is actually less neo-realist and rather melodramatic. Critics debate whether the pending marriage of the Catholic Pina and the communist Francesco really "acknowledges the working partnership of communists and Catholics in the actual historical resistance."
Bosley Crowther, film critic for The New York Times, gave the film a highly positive review, and wrote, "Yet the total effect of the picture is a sense of real experience, achieved as much by the performance as by the writing and direction. The outstanding performance is that of Aldo Fabrizi as the priest, who embraces with dignity and humanity a most demanding part. Marcello Pagliero is excellent too, as the resistance leader, and Anna Magnani brings humility and sincerity to the role of the woman who is killed. The remaining cast is unqualifiedly fine, with the exception of Harry Feist in the role of the German commander. His elegant arrogance is a bit too vicious—but that may be easily understood." Film critic William Wolf especially praised the scene where Pina is shot, stating that "few scenes in cinema have the force of that in which Magnani, arms outstretched, races towards the camera to her death."
The film opened in Italy on September 27, 1945, with the war damage to Rome not yet repaired. The United States premiere followed on February 25, 1946 in New York. The American release was censored, resulting in a cut of about 15 minutes. The story of the film's journey from Italy to the United States is recounted in Federico Fellini's autobiographical essay, "Sweet Beginnings." Rod Geiger, a U.S. Army private stationed in Rome, met Rossellini and Fellini as they were working on the movie. According to Fellini's essay, Geiger was "a 'half-drunk' soldier who stumbled (literally as well as figuratively) onto the set of Open City. [He] misrepresented himself as an American producer when actually he 'was a nobody and didn't have a dime.'" Nonetheless, Geiger ended up with a reel of Open City, brought it back to the U.S. in his barracks bags, and managed to get the film released in theaters.
Fellini's account of Geiger's involvement in the film was the subject of a defamation lawsuit brought by Geiger against Fellini. The film was banned in several countries. For example, West Germany banned the picture from 1951-1960. In Argentina, the film was inexplicably withdrawn in 1947 following an anonymous government order.
- Cannes Film Festival: Grand Prize of the Festival; Roberto Rossellini; 1946.
- Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists (Sindacato Nazionale dei Giornalisti Cinematografici Italiani): Silver Ribbon (Nastro d'Argento); Best Film; Best Supporting Actress, Anna Magnani; 1946.
- National Board of Review: NBR Award Best Actress; Anna Magnani; Best Foreign Film, Italy; 1946.
- New York Film Critics Circle Awards: NYFCC Award Best Foreign Language Film, Italy; 1946.
- http://www.oscars.org/awards/academyawards/legacy/ceremony/19th-winners.html 19th Academy Awards official website
- Wakeman, John. World Film Directors, Volume 2. the H. W. Wilson Company. 1987. pp. 961.
- Forgacs, David. Rome Open City. London: BFI, 2000.
- Wakeman. pp. 961-962.
- Burgoyne, Robert. "The Imaginary And The Neo-Real," Enclitic 3 1 (Spring, 1979) Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press.
- Wakeman. pp. 962.
- Hillman, Roger. "The Penumbra of Neorealism," Forum for Modern Language Studies, 38 2 (2002): 221 - 223.
- Shiel, Mark. Italian Neorealism: Rebuilding the Cinematic City. New York: Wallflower Press (2006): 51.
- Crowther, Bosley. The New York Times, film review, "How Italy Resisted," February 26, 1946. Last accessed: December 20, 2007.
- Wakeman. pp. 961.
- Warren, Virginia Lee. The New York Times, "Delayed Censorship," December 7, 1947.