Era notte a Roma (1960)

8 02 2009

Well, it seems like Rossellini indulged himself into his original World War 2-era interests one last time before he completely began his “educational” television productions. For at least an hour and a half, this is a very political yet very intimate retelling of three concentration camp runaways (one from Britian, one from Russia, and one from the USA) hiding in the attic of a young Italian woman. These sequences recall Rossellini in his cinematic prime, yet are painted in an aesthetic that is a bit more modern. It’s not nearly up to the technical level of L’Avventura (which of course came out the same year) but it definitely has a little Antonioni-ness to it. Things get messy, as they often tend to with Rossellini, towards the end, but it is an interesting endeavor, if not an entirely successful one.

At 136 minutes, this certainly begins to drift away from what pulled me to Rossellini in the first place. The running time of The Flowers of St. Francis and Germany Year Zero are both under 90 minutes. This isn’t to say that I get tired of Rossellini’s shtick after awhile, but instead, his films fare better as concise, straight-forward documents that unfold in real time. This film does give that impression for a good part of its length. The sequences that take place in Esperia’s attic have an effortlessly languid pace to them. Even when the discussions among the three men turn to ramblings on communism, and/or fascism, a sense of realism is indeed maintained. The tension between the three runaway protagonists certainly helps this case.

Oddly enough, Rossellini’s focus isn’t limited to these three men. Although Mr. Pemberton’s opening narration gives that impression off, Rossellini scope also includes Esperia, the women who reluctantly hides them in her attic and her boyfriend, Renato. In a slightly tongue-in-cheek bit of writing, Esperia finds out about the possible consequences for her actions from Renato, who advised her to shelter escapees in the first place. She is shocked to learn that she could be killed by firing squad if she is found out. Despite the danger involved, Renato can’t help but giggle at his lover’s naivety. It’s a charming little moment in a film is desperate need of more.

Towards the end, Rossellini himself escapes (lame pun, indeed…) the tone of his WWII works, and goes into uncharted territory. Characters are thrown out, and new ones appear almost seamlessly. This is awkward, to say the least, but definitely reaffirms my own idea that the film is an extremely interesting development for Rossellini as a filmmaker. It is a bit bizarre, and maybe unsettling for some, to think that he would make The Rise of Louis XIV only six years later. In a way, it also kind of makes sense. This is, after all, somewhat of a transition piece. The positives from both of Rossellini’s stylistic eras are present, but so are the negatives, I suppose.

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One response

11 02 2009
jesus cortes

I think this is one of Rossellini´s best features in spite of its lack of critical fortune. It´s an amzing mixture of the 40´s director era and the new Rossellini that emerged after “Viaggio in Italia”.
A must
Congratulations for this blog.

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