The 50 Movies Project is a personal “marathon” of mine. In June, I compiled a list of 50 movies that I felt I needed to see by the end of the year. Old, new, foreign, English — it doesn’t matter. These are all movies that I have heard a lot about and have been wanting to see for some time. This project gives me a way to stay focused on the goal.
Rome, Open City 
Director: Roberto Rossellini
Going into Rome, Open City, I knew very little about it. I knew that it was set in Nazi-occupied Rome during World War II, and that it was credited for sparking Italy’s neorealism style of filmmaking. As someone unfamiliar with this movement, I didn’t know what to expect.
Right away I was intrigued by the movie’s setting. It is fascinating that director Roberto Rossellini and writers Sergio Amidei and Federico Fellini sat down and began working on the script just two months after the Allies forced the Germans out of Rome. The film began shooting in January 1945 while much of the war damage remained. The fact that they decided to create this film immediately after occupation paints an incredible portrait that was not only fresh at the time but also incredibly raw and visceral. Because everything takes place in this war-torn city, the movie has almost a documentary feel about it.
Around the halfway mark, there was a startling twist that I was not expecting. From my experience with films during this time period (admittedly Hollywood selections), this was not a regular occurrence. This major plot change was a bit jarring, but made the film feel even more “real” and authentic.
As the movie follows those involved with the Italian resistance, it’s hard not to get swept up with them. There’s Pina (Anna Magnani), a widow with two children that is pregnant with another. She is tough, and will do anything to help fight the oppression. There’s Manfredi (Marcello Pagliero), the devoted resistance leader, a strong son-of-a-gun who fights endlessly for his country. And then there’s the priest, Don Pietro (Aldo Fabrizio), who steals the show. The character development of Don Pietro is particularly stunning — at the beginning he kind of stumbles around, occasionally getting some laughs, but by the end he shows an impressive amount of bravery and becomes a powerful figure.
Rome, Open City is a great history lesson that doesn’t hold anything back. There’s torture, betrayal, and murder — all things you would expect during wartime. With brilliant documentary-esque filmmaking and some incredible acting performances, it is easy to see why this is so highly regarded even today.