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Rome, 1944: The city is occupied by the Germans, but the Italians have
long built up a network against their Nazi oppressors, which SS major
Bergmann (Harry Feist) now tends to smash, and he has long made out
Giorgio Manfredi (Marcello Pagliero) as one of the key figures of
resistance, but Manfredi is to experienced to play sitting duck for the
Nazis, and after making a rooftop escape when the Germans are already
knocking on his door, he hides out at his friend Francesco (Francesco
Grandjacquet), a seemingly harmless printer who plans to marry his
pregnant girlfrient Pina (Anna Magnani) the very next day. Manfredi's
mission meanwhile is completed by father Pietro (Aldo Fabrizi), a priest
sympathetic to the resistance's cause who is also going to marry Francesco
Then though, the house where Francesco and Pina live is raided
by the Germans, and while Manfredi manages to get away, Francesco isn't
that lucky, and when Pina attacks the German soldiers in a fit of rage
because of it, she is brutally gunned down. Francesco though is later
freed by the resistance when the truck transporting him to prison is
lured into an ambush.
Francesco meets up with Manfredi, and the two of
them hide out at Marina's (Maria Michi) place, Manfredi's actress
girlfriend. But then Marina and Manfredi get into a fight, and to have her
revenge on him, she phones Ingrid (Giovanna Galletti), her friend who
provides her with drugs and is also the assistant of Major Bergmann, to
blow the whistle on Manfredi.
Francesco manages to evade arrest, but
Manfredi is captured, and so is father Pietro, who has long been suspected
by the Germans and only evaded them so far because of his profession.
Questioning Manfredi is pointless though, he rather dies under torture
than spilling the beans. When Marina is brought in and sees his corpse,
she breaks down - and mercilessly, the Germans throw her into prison.
Pietro, who hasn't told the Germans a thing as well, is publicly executed
to serve as an example, but that execution doesn't go quite as planned
because half of the gunmen refuse to shoot a priest, and the only audience
that comes to the execution are the children he has taken care of all
those years - children who want to give him comfort in his final hour ...
and who have long fomred a resistance movement of their own, blowing up
arms depots with great regularity and without ever being suspected.
of the cornerstones of Italian neorealismo, Rome, Open City
was released only months after the end of the German occupation, filmed on
authentic locations in the streets of Rome in authentic costumes with a
mostly amateur cast, based on a script (almost) torn from contemporary
headlines (even though the plot as such was pure fiction).
doesn't say anything about the quality of the film though, many often
pathetic no budget movies claim pretty much the same thing. Still, Rome,
Open City is a masterpiece, one of the few films that successfully
marries contemporary politics with melodrama without becoming a message
movie, that combines many little episodes to one big story and that
doesn't forget to flesh out its characters (even the lesser ones) when
telling a tale of political relevance.
In short, a masterpiece.