Directed by Roberto Rossellini



Rome – Open City




There’s a film you’ve probably never heard of, it’s sixty-five years old this year, and it may just be the most influential film ever made, because before 1945, when it was made, nobody had ever made a film like it, and since then no one – anywhere in the world -- has made a film that wasn’t influenced by it – directly or indirectly -- whether or not the filmmaker ever saw the film or even heard of the filmmaker.


The filmmaker was an Italian named Roberto Rossellini, and the film was called “Rome – Open City,” or just “Open City,” when it was released in this country.  It’s the story of a couple of families in an apartment house during the Nazi occupation; they go out to the bakery for bread, they fight over ration coupons, one sister is comfortable with the Nazis, the other is concerned for her husband who’s a runner for a Partisan group in the mountains.  The local parish priest is also involved in putting out an underground paper, bringing money to the Partisans, but there aren’t really any heroes.  Then the Germans make a sweep of the apartment house and take away all the men; including the priest.  They’re going to interrogate them to find out who their leader is, one of the sisters is shot down trying to reach her husband in the police wagon, and the rest of the film is concerned with what happens to the captured men.


So why is this film so influential?  Because they were just ordinary people, created for the film by Rossellini, and he makes us care more for the captured men than we ever thought possible.  His style came to be called Neo-Realism, because he made the film like a documentary of real life instead of fiction, and nobody had ever made a film like that before.  In a couple of  years another Italian