Developed in Rome during the Nazi occupation, shot in the Eternal City shortly after the Nazi withdrawal, Roberto Rossellini’s Rome Open City stunned audiences the world over who saw in it an unmediated authenticity more evocative of the documentary quality of wartime newsreels than of the artificiality of earlier, more conventional WWII dramas.
A Vatican list film, Rossellini’s celebrated 1945 landmark of Italian neorealism [Open City] is a must-see film for film lovers — and of course I saw it, and reviewed it, years ago. Even at the time, though, I knew I wasn’t really experiencing the film Rossellini made.
Rossellini doesn’t cater to contemporary sensibilities by reinventing Francis as a mere eccentric free spirit, a medieval flower child, such as we find in Zefferelli’s Brother Sun, Sister Moon. Francis remains challenging to modern audiences here, his childlike spirit joined to insistence on strict religious obligation and ultimately to zeal for evangelization.
Copyright © 2000– Steven D. Greydanus. All rights reserved.