Close Up

8 - 22 February 2011: Rossellini's War Trilogy


Roberto Rossellini’s War Trilogy is his searing, raw account of Europe during and after World War II. Using a largely non-professional cast and filmed in the battle wrecked streets of Italy and Germany, Rossellini documents the horrors of Nazi occupation, Allied liberation and the aftermath.

"Above all the concept was to give an honest account, the show things exactly as they were. That created the need for what's called the 'realist' style. After all we'd seen and been through, the destruction of war, we couldn't afford the luxury of making up fictional stories." – Roberto Rossellini

Rome, Open City
Roberto Rossellini
1945 | 100 min | B/W | Digital

This was Roberto Rossellini's revelation, a harrowing drama about the Nazi occupation of Rome and the brave few who struggled against it. Though told with more melodramatic flair than the other films that would form this trilogy and starring some well-known actors – Aldo Fabrizi as a priest helping the partisan cause and Anna Magnani in her breakthrough role as the fiancée of a resistance member – Rome, Open City is a shockingly authentic experience, conceived and directed amid the ruin of World War II, with immediacy in every frame. Marking a watershed moment in Italian cinema, this galvanic work garnered awards around the globe and left the beginnings of a new film movement in its wake.

Roberto Rossellini
1946 | 134 min | B/W | Digital
Showing in the full-length, original version

Paisan follows the Allied operations to liberate in Italy, from Sicily in the South to the Northern Po Valley, across six unrelated episodes. Paisan (meaning friend or fellow countryman) finds its tragedy in the misunderstandings between the Italian partisans, civilians, monks and the Allied soldiers who do not speak the same language. With its documentary-like visuals and its intermingled cast of actors and non-professionals, Italians and their American liberators, this look at the struggles of different cultures to communicate and of people to live their everyday lives in extreme circumstances is equal parts charming sentiment and vivid reality.

Germany Year Zero
Roberto Rossellini
1948 | 78 min | B/W | Digital
Showing in the original German version

The concluding chapter of the War Trilogy is the most devastating, a portrait of an obliterated Berlin, seen through the eyes of a twelve-year-old boy. Living in a bombed-out apartment building with his sick father and two older siblings, young Edmund is mostly left to wander unsupervised, getting ensnared in the black-market schemes of a group of teenagers and coming under the nefarious influence of a Nazi-sympathizing ex-teacher. Germany Year Zero is a daring, gut-wrenching look at the consequences of fascism, for society and the individual.