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Roberto Rossellini and Ingrid Bergman
Roberto Rossellini and Ingrid Bergman

Roberto Rossellini was an Italian filmmaker and one of the key figures of Italian neorealism, a movement so crucial for the History of Cinema. Although the first Italian neorealist film is “Obsession” by Lucchino Visconti and released in 1943, it was Rossellini’s “Rome, Open City“, in 1945, that defined this movement and made it popular around the world. Roberto Rossellini directed 53 films, documentaries and TV films in over 4 decades. Here are his best films:

10. The Taking of Power by Louis XVI (1966)

In 1962, Rossellini declared that cinema was dead and he wanted to focus on Television. Four years later, he delivered this film about the efforts of young Louis XVI to gain the throne. It is a very interesting costume drama with very good performances by the actors and an attention to the details of that period by the Italian director.

9. Love (1948)

This is a film consisted by two parts. In the first part, a woman speaks on the phone with her husband and she doesn’t want them to break up. In the second part, Nannina meets a stranger, whom she thinks it was Saint Joseph. Few months after their encounter, she is pregnant and believes it is a miracle. You find this film in this list for two reasons. Firstly, Anna Magnani. This great actress gives an amazing performance on both the stories. Secondly, because the second part of the film was censored in the United States and there was even a court, so they would allow its screening. Aren’t you intrigued to watch it?

8. The Flowers of St. Francis (1950)

9 different chapters from the life of Saint Francis of Asisi and the early Franciscan monks. Each story discusses a moral theme. For this film, Roberto Rossellini used actual monks and also shot on location. Regardless its religious tone, this film shows the mastery of Rossellini in order to portray his characters and their depth. The Vatican listed this film as one of the 45 greatest films ever made.

7. General Della Rovere (1959)

Can you become a leader of the resistance if you collaborate with the Nazis? That’s the question that Rossellini tries to answer with this film. Vittorio De Sica, a great Italian filmmaker himself, is the protagonist in this film and he is exceptional. Based on a true story, this film portrays the situation in Italy during World War II. Undoubtedly, a very interesting movie, which won the Golden Lion at the 1959 Venice International Film Festival.

6. Europa ’51 (1952)

After the death of her son, a woman turns into humanitarianism and religion to deal over with her loss. Ingrid Bergman, who was Rossellini’s wife at the time and left Hollywood for him, was excellent in this role. Roberto Rossellini wanted to portray the anxieties of the post-war society and he did great with this film.

5. Stromboli (1950)

Rossellini’s first collaboration with Ingrid Bergman, a huge star of classic Hollywood was on this movie. And what a partnership it was. To begin with, it is a classic example of Italian neorealist style at its finest. Shot on location, with many non-professional actors. Moreover, it portrays the hard life on the Italian countryside, in this case in a volcanic island. Finally, it highlights the behavior of Italians against the foreigners and the fear they have for someone they do not understand (Bergman plays the role of a Lithuanian ex-prisoner in an internment camp). Although the film received negative reviews upon its release, over the years the reviews became positive and it is now considered among the greatest Italian films.

4. Journey to Italy (1954)

The collapse of a relationship. If love is gone, why should a married couple be together? Ingrid Bergman and George Sanders are an unhappy married couple who travel to Italy in order to save their marriage. Nevertheless, this seems impossible. No matter their efforts, they cannot properly communicate anymore. Unless, something miraculous happens. In addition to the film’s story, many critics and historians believe that this film was Rossellini’s attempt to save his marriage, but it collapsed a few years later. Unquestionably, a great film about relationships.

3. Germany, Year Zero (1948)

The third part of Rossellini’s “War Trilogy”, “Germany, Year Zero” takes place in Berlin right after the World War II. As a matter of fact, he shot on location, depicting the actual destroyed buildings from the German capital. For the purpose of this film, and staying faithful to his neoralist approach, he used again non-professional actors. It is important to realize that he wanted to show the efforts for survival and the extreme poverty that people had to deal in Berlin. Especially its ending is unique and unexpected. You should definitely watch this film!

2. Paisan (1946)

The second part of Rossellini’s “War Trilogy”, takes place in different parts of Italy and through 6 different episodes, it narrates the liberation of the country by the Allied Forces. The key elements of Italian neorealism are all present here. We follow the stories of poor and working-class people. Their struggles into poverty, injustice and desperation. In a word, their daily life which continuously changes. And Rossellini achieves so greatly to demonstrate that on the big screen.

1. Rome, Open City (1945)

The masterpiece of Italian neorealism. One of the best movies ever made. Moreover, one of the main reasons, Italian Cinema won international recognition and future great filmmakers had the chance to shine. Roberto Rossellini started shooting “Rome, Open City” in January 1945, under extreme situations. It was almost impossible to find raw film, the studios of Cinecitta were could not help and there were no funds available. For these reasons, Rossellini hired several non-actors and he was lucky enough to collaborate with Anna Magnani, in one of the greatest performances of her career. It is important to realize that Rossellini had to use a more “documentary style”, which was actually the expansion of neorealist style.

Even if you can’t (or don’t want to) watch the films that we mentioned in this article, please watch “Rome, Open City“.

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