The Fascist Trilogy (1941-1944)

Rossellini was in prime position to advance his own career as a director as of a result of his work with DeRobertis and his close friendship with Mussoliniís son. He finally got his first break in 1941 when the Centro Cinematografio del Ministero della marina funded movie on the Italian Navy and DeRobertis suggested Rossellini as the director. The final product was La nave bianca (The White Ship, 1941). A fictional documentary, this movie was a celebration of the Navyís role in the war effort as well as a tribute to those men who put their lives in danger on a daily basis for their country. La nave bianca was brought to the Ninth Annual Mostra di Venezia , Italy's most important film festival, where it won the coveted Cup of the National Fascist Party. From the honor and prestige associated with this award, Rossellini gained respect within Fascist film circles and the censorship boards gave him a bit more leeway with his projects. In addition, the award cleared the way for his second feature film.

Un pilota ritorna (A Pilot Returns, 1942) was sponsored by the Air Force and, similar to his first film, celebrated the glory of pilots who fought and risked their lives for their country. However, this time the censorship board had a small disagreement with Rosselliniís script in parts where he seemed to reject the war rhetoric. He was lightly criticized, and then given a new script in which all the dialog was rewritten in respect to his first copy. Not knowing whether it was Mussolini, or his son, who changed the script, it did not matter much to Rossellini who never worked directly from a shooting script anyway. Recalling this episode in a later interview, Rossellini explained, "I always maintained an extreme liberty, I never work from pieces of written paper" (Apra 42).

He made his third film, Uomo dalla croce (Man of the Cross, 1943), without any military help or funding. Shooting began in July of 1942 during the time when Italian troops, without adequate weaponry, equipment, food supplies, and clothing, were being pushed back from the Russian front. The main focus of the story line was Italyís great victory over the Russians which, in reality, ended with defeat and certain death for the troops. It was released one month before the Allied troops invaded Sicily and was yanked from the movie theater almost immediately after the invasion.

The Fascist Trilogy: Realism in the Story Line