Quick Recap: So, Italy was in bad shape during World War II. This movie tells the story of citizens fighting Nazi forces and trying to take back their country. Among the characters: a pregnant woman, a priest, and a ragtag group of boys help to lead the resistance. It sounds like your regular uplifting fare until you remember that these are the Nazis and so this will never end well.
Fun (?) Fact: The film didn’t do so well when it premiered in Italy, mainly because the citizens had JUST gone through the horrifying events and weren’t looking forward to reliving them on the big screen. Italian audiences wanted escapism and Rome,Open City is just the opposite of that.
My thoughts: In case it hasn’t been spelled out well enough, this movie is BRUTAL. I knew it would be tough to watch because, you know, Nazis. But I wasn’t expecting this. After the credits, I immediately Googled what I could about the background of Rome,Open City and found that many of the characters are based off of real people. I think it was at this time that curling up into a ball sounded like the most plausible idea.
The first part of the movie is your typical wartime drama with the rebels quietly meeting up and forming a resistance and the enemy doing everything they can to stop them. One of the main characters, Pina , is a widow with a son and another baby on the way. She is set to marry Francesco. The two of them meet up with another patriot, Giorgio Manfredi, and attempt to help him continue fighting the Nazis while laying low. On the day of their wedding, Francesco gets captured and taken away to be tortured. As the truck drives off, Pina runs behind it, crying out for her love. The Nazis shoot and kill her while her young son watches. I think it’s safe to say that this is one of the most heartbreaking scenes in cinema and yet, IT GETS WORSE.
The other main character is Don Pietro, a priest fighting in the resistance. He is mostly involved in smuggling things to other fighters because as a priest, he is able to stay out after curfew. His motives stay in line with his faith because he believes in helping good defeat evil. He is well loved in the community, especially with a group of boys who also do their part to take down the Nazis. You can see where this is going. During the second part of the film, Don Pietro gets captured with Manfredi and must witness his friend’s torture and death. He is then sentenced to firing squad, where we come to the second most heartbreaking film in cinema history- the soldiers tasked with killing the priest deliberately miss their target so the Nazi officer gets impatient, pulls out a gun and shoots him in the head. Not bad enough? Those boys who loved the priest so much witness everything, including Pina’s son. And then the movie ends.
So, yes, it goes without saying that this movie is disturbing and horrifying. But it’s at least a little comforting to know that Rome was eventually liberated and the Nazis ultimately defeated. The movie reminded me of ‘A Bell for Adano’, written by John Hersey. That novel also takes place during World War II, in the town of Sicily and the two forces at war are the Americans and the Fascists. The citizens of the town only want their old life back, and that includes a bell that means so much to them. The two are similar because both feature strong citizens who love their country. They aren’t looking for anything spectacular. World War II was complicated in many ways and it’s easy to get caught up in the military history, but to me, the most interesting stories are of the ordinary people just trying to survive.
Final review: 5/5. But I don’t recommend watching it unless you like to Ugly Cry.
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