Italian Neorealism has had such an impact upon filmmaking that its effects are still being felt today. Using a small budget, natural lighting, hand-held cameras, and little known to non-actors were all things that originated with Italian Neorealism. All of those concepts may sound familiar, due to the fact that most indie (that are truly indie and not fake studio indie) use most of these concepts in telling its story. But what makes Italian Neorealism even more interesting than just these surface aesthetic choices is the political bent to all of them. Rome, Open City was made immediately after a war that rocked Italy to its core. The film comments on this war that everyone was in a hurry to forget about, but also tells the story of the everyday heroes of the resistance movement. It is a great film that will teach more about Italy’s involvement with the war than any modern film will.
Pina is the protagonist of the film for about the first half of the film. She is a widower with a young boy, forced to live off of stolen bread. She is not alone in this struggle. Thousands of Romans are starving in this city that is being guarded heavily by the Nazis. But Pina is strong. She does not take anything lying down. She will stand up and fight to the very end. She is engaged to a man across the hall. His name is Francesco. He is a resister. More than that he gives refuge to other resisters. One of these resisters that he gives shelter to is Giorgio Manfredi, a man who the Nazis particularly want for reasons unknown. Before he goes into hiding, Giorgio summons a priest to complete one last job for him. Don Pietro is a priest that resists purely on moral grounds. He is able to go where most people can’t because of his religious clothing. He saves young boys, helps move money to fund more resisting, and gives shelter to resisters like Giorgio who have gotten too famous to carry on without getting caught.
All of these characters representative of a population that resisted so fervently. They are made to look like ordinary people, because they were. Sometimes ordinary people are called to do extraordinary things. Rossellini made this film to show the world what it was really like in Italy during the war. The constant fear of bombings, being discovered, and starving to death was very real to so many people. We as film goers tend to overlook simple stories about the war in order to celebrate more grand ones. We need to realize that films like this one is just as vital as something like Schindler’s List. In order to truly understand World War II, Italian Neorealism, or even just the history of film, you must watch this film. It may be like eating your vegetables but you will be happy you did it.