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February 02, 2008

Roberto Rossellini: 1906–1977

Roberto Rossellini

Rossellini and Ingrid Bergman 1

Roberto Rossellini with Ingrid Bergman



Under Construction

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Introduction

This article will be giving an overview of the work of Roberto Rossellini from Roma citta aperta until about 1963. This is when what are usually considered to be his most important films were made and include his classic neorealist films as well as his post-neorealist films many made with Ingrid Bergman and considered by many left-wing critics of the time to be a betrayal of neorealism. Given the scandal around the relationship between Rossellini and Bergman at a time when the Italian right-wing had become resurgent around Andreotti and the concommitant influence of the Roman Catholic Church it isn't hard to see why these films bombed at the box office however their influence on future filmmakers such as Truffaut was enormous. The overview will provide an introduction to the individual works which will have separate articles. There will also be an article about the general developments in Italy. Sadly the best part of one which was written has been the victim of hard disc crashes (yes plural). This kind of article is always important as films are usually deep participants in the SPECT (Social / Political / Economic / Cultural / Textual complex.  


Written as far back as 1986 Brunette's preface on Rossellini notes that he is perhaps the greatest unknown director who ver lived. As a central figure within neorealism and then moving on in his films with Ingrid Bergman to work with antinarrative methods and the use of deadtime Rossellini was ahead of his time preceding the work of Antonioni. Whilst he was to have enormous influence on filmmakers such as Godard and Truffaut it seems extraordinary that in a time when so many film directors have most of their work available on DVD very little of Rossellini's work is available. Even his neorealist films aren't all available. As for his later work Voyage to Italy is available from the BFI but other important work such as Stromboli is not. Hopefully by writing about him this will help stimulate demand for these works to become readily available. As can be seen from the bibliography below there is a large amount of critical writing in English readily available on Rossellini but without readily available texts this is not very helpful. By comparison most of Visconti's films are available although he is very underwritten by English speaking critics.

Rossellini and Neorealism


Rossellini made three films which are central to the cinematic tendency called Neorealism. These films are Rome Open City, Paisá, and Germany Year Zero.

Rossellini's main ideological thrust through these films was an emphasis on humanism ideas which ranged from an emphasis on solidarity between seemingly opposed idological positions of communism and catholicism against the common enemy of Nazism to a moral appeal for children in the former Nazi Germany to break with the amoralistic and anti-human ideas encapsualted in Nazism in Germany Year Zero. Paisá focused upon the cultural difficulties between Americans and Italians as the Allies gradually beat back Nazism in Italy.


Rome Open City 1,

Rome Open City 1945



Rome Open City 2

Rome Open City 1945


Rome Open City 3

Rome Open City 1945



Paisa 1

Paisa 1946


Paisa 3

Paisa 1946


Paisa 2

Paisa 1946



Paisa 4

Paisa 1946


Germany Year Zero

Germany Year Zero 1948



Germany Year Zero 1

Germany Year Zero 1948



Germany Year Zero 2

Germany Year Zero 1948



The Rossellini & Ingrid Bergman Collaboration


After the famous neorealist trilogy Rossellini is probably best remembered for the films he made with Ingrid Bergman. The full length feature films were: Stromboli (1949), Europa '51 (1952), Voyage to Italy (1953), Giovanna d'Arco al Rogo (1954), La Paura (Fear) (1954/55).

Bergman was to become Reossellini's wife. The story of how they first met and then started their cinematic collaboration seems extraordinary. According to Brunette (1996) Bergman and her then husband Petter Lindstrom saw Rome Open City in a small art cinema which by then was three years old. Bergman was thoroughly impressed If there there is such a man who can put this on the screen, he must be an absolutely heavenly being (Cited Brunette 1996 p 109). A few months later Bergman saw Paisà in an almost empty cinema for it was not popular in the US. Still excited by the director's work she was convinced that Rossellini's films would do much better if they had a named star in a leading role. This led to her famous letter to Rossellini:

Dear Mr Rossellini,
I saw your films Open City and Paisan and enjoyed them very much. If you need a Swedish actress who speaks English very well, who has not forgotten her German, who is not very understandable in French, and who in Italian only knows "ti amo" I am ready to come and make a film with you. (Cited Brunette 1996 p 109)

Rossellini's response was very enthusiastic and he outlined his ideas for the film which was to become Stromboli. Eventually he visited the Lindstrom home in California and fell in love with Bergman. Howard Hughes who was enthusiastic about Bergman ventually agreed to finance the film. Bergman duly went to Italy to shoot the film.

Bergman on Stromboli

Ingrid Bergman photographed on the island of Stromboli


Rossellini's filmmaking methods were somthing of a surprise to Bergman who was used to working to thoroughly prepared scripts and only working with professional actors. By comparison Rossellini was using many non-professional actors and his scripts wre loose and there was much expectation of improvisation. During the filming Bergman and Rossellini fell in love and Bergman wrote to her husband that she was going to stay with Rossellini. This caused a huge scandal in the USA.

Bergman on the island of Stromboli

Ingrid Bergman in Stromboli


The film was made in two versions one in English and one in Italian. Rossellini disowned the American version which was 20 minutes shorter and had been edited by the  RKO  studio totally undermining  Rossellini's intentions.

Whilst the Bergman films wre critically badly received by many critics at the time with the excption of the writers of Cahiers du Cinema critics such as Pter Bruntte and Laura Mulvey consider them to be the strongest and most innovative work of Rossellini.


Filmography

  • Beaubourg, centre d'art et de culture Georges Pompidou (1977)
  • Il messia (1976)
  • Anno uno (1974)
  • The World Population (1974)
  • Concerto per Michelangelo (1974)
  • Agostino d'Ippona (1972)
  • Intervista a Salvador Allende: La forza e la ragione (1971)
  • Rice University (1971)
  • Da Gerusalemme a Damasco (1970)
  • Les Carabiniers (1963)
  • Ro.Go.Pa.G. (segment: "Illibatezza") (1963)
  • Benito Mussolini (1962)
  • Anima nera (1962)
  • Uno sguardo dal ponte (1961)
  • Vanina Vanini (1961)
  • Viva l'Italia! (1961)
  • Era Notte a Roma (1960)
  • Il generale Della Rovere (1959)
  • India: Matri Bhumi (1959)
  • Giovanna d'Arco al rogo (1954)
  • La Paura (1954)
  • Viaggio in Italia (1954)
  • Dov'è la libertà...? (1954)
  • Amori di mezzo secolo (segment: "Napoli 1943") (1954)
  • Siamo donne (segment: "Ingrid Bergman") (1953)
  • Europa '51 (1952)
  • La macchina ammazzacattivi (1952)
  • Les Sept péchés capitaux (segment: "Envie, L'Envy") (1952)
  • Medico condotto (1952)
  • Francesco, giullare di Dio (1950)
  • Stromboli terra di Dio (1950)
  • L'Invasore (1949)
  • Germania anno zero (1948)
  • L'Amore (segments: "Il Miracolo" and "Una voce umana") (1948)
  • Paisà (1946)
  • Desiderio (1946)
  • Roma città aperta (1945)
  • L'Uomo dalla Croce (1943)
  • La nave bianca (1942)
  • Un Pilota ritorna (1942)
  • Il Ruscello di Ripasottile
  • Fantasia sottomarina (1940)
  • La Vispa Teresa (1939)
  • Il Tacchino prepotente (1939)
  • Luciano Serra pilota (1938)
  • La Fossa degli angeli
  • Prélude à l'aprés-midi d'un faune (1937)
  • Dafne (1936)


Webliography

Intute Arts and Humanities records on Rossellini

BBC 4 Profile of Rossellini 

Senses of Cinema on Rossellini  

Senses of Cinema Rossellini's Germany Year Zero

Roberto Rossellini and his Italian Cinema: The Search for Realism

Malcolm: The rise to Power of Lousi the XVI

Rossellini at UCLA

Rai TV on Rossellini  

Dr. Adrian Martin Review of Tag Gallagher's Biography of Rossellini 

Jump Cut. Re-evaluating Rossellini by Martin Walsh  



Bibliography 

Ben-Ghiat, Ruth. ‘The Facist War Trilogy’. Forgacs, David , Lutton, Sarah and Nowell-Smith Geoffrey.Eds. Roberto Rossellini: Magician of the Real . London: BFI

Bernadi, Sandro. 2000. ‘Rosselini’s Landscapes: Nature, Myth,History’. Forgacs, David , Lutton, Sarah and Nowell-Smith Geoffrey.Eds. Roberto Rossellini: Magician of the Real . London: BFI

Bondanella, Peter. 1993. The Films of Roberto Rossellini. Cambridge: CUP

Brunette, Peter. 1996. Roberto Rossellini. University of California Press: Berkley. (First publishd by OUP 1987)

Forgacs, David. 2000. ‘Introduction: Rossellini and the Critics’. Forgacs, David , Lutton, Sarah and Nowell-Smith Geoffrey.Eds. Roberto Rossellini: Magician of the Real . London: BFI

Forgacs, David , Lutton, Sarah and Nowell-Smith Geoffrey.Eds. 2000. Roberto Rossellini: Magician of the Real. London: BFI

Gallhaer, Tag. 1998. The Adventures of Roberto Rossellini. New York: Da Capo Press

Gottlieb, Sidney. Ed. Rossellini's Rome Open City. Cambridge: CUP

Gottlieb, Sidney. Ed. PDF Intro to Rossellini's Rome Open City. Cambridge: CUP

Hipkins Danielle. 'Francesca's Salvation or Damnation? Resisting recognition of the prostitute in Rossellini's Paisà (1946)', Studies in European Cinema, 3.2 (2006), 153-69.

Marcus, Millicent. 1986. Italian Film in the Light of Neorealism. Princeton: Princeton University Press

Muscio, Giuliana. ‘Paisa / Paisan’. Bertellini, Giorgio Ed. 2004. The Cinema of Italy. London: Wallflower Press

Nowell-Smith, Geoffrey. 2000. ‘North and South, East and West’: Rossellini and Politics. Forgacs, David , Lutton, Sarah and Nowell-Smith Geoffrey.Eds. Roberto Rossellini: Magician of the Real . London: BFI

Restivo, A. 2002. The Cinema of Economic Miracles: Visuality and Modernisation in the Italian Art Film. Durham and London: Duke University Press

Rohdie, Sam. 2000. ‘India’ Forgacs, David , Lutton, Sarah and Nowell-Smith Geoffrey.Eds. Roberto Rossellini: Magician of the Real. London: BFI

Rossellini, Roberto. The War Trilogy. Open City. Paisan. Germany-Year Zero. Edited and with an Introduction By Stefano Roncoroni. Translated from the Italian By Judith Green. NY: Grossman, 1973.

Shiel, Mark. 2006. Italian Neo Realism: Rebuilding the Cinematic City. London: Wallflower Press

Wagstaff, Christopher. 2000. ‘Rossellini and Neo-Realism’. Forgacs, David , Lutton, Sarah and Nowell-Smith Geoffrey.Eds. Roberto Rossellini: Magician of the Real . London: BFI



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