Review of Open City (1945)

Moving picture, 103 minutes

Nazi occupiers in Italy seek a number of figures in the resistance movement.

Anti-fascist tragedy. Usually referred to as the first of the Italian neorealist films, as it includes a lot of shooting on location in natural light (a practical choice; local studios and much equipment had been destroyed), unknown actors and a proximity to everyday events of the here and now: filmed during the occupation and immediately after the German forces left Rome, with Germans in some roles, on the varied scraps of inappropriate film available.

Italian neorealism is characterized by romantic humanism. In this case, the people of the resistance are associated with popular religion (portrayed entirely as a good thing), broad socialism (no clash there), courage and family, whereas the fascist opposition is materialist, decadent, sexually deviant and so on; several of the antagonists are insufficiently human. Incidentally, the director made films for the fascists, working under one of Mussolini’s sons.

This film deserves much of its reputation for starting a movement that undermined the whole idea of cinema as asynchronous theater. The eventual result was something independent as a medium and closer to reality, at least politically, geographically and in terms of acting.

moving picture fiction