The Neorealist Trilogy (1945 - 1947)

With the war finally over and Mussolini’s repressive measures gone, Rossellini was given a type of freedom which he had never had before. After living under Fascist rule for over 20 years and silently abiding by the rhetoric, Rossellini broke free from this ideological conformation to take a moral stand. Two months following the liberation of Rome, he started to film one of his biggest successes, Roma citta’ aperta . Lacking a producer, Rossellini sold his furniture, took out loans, and, with the help of his friends, scraped together seven or eight million lire (Aprà 50). To cut down on production costs, he used post-synchronization of the sound as it was several hundred lira cheaper to develop silent film. In the box offices around the world Roma citta’ aperta was a big hit which signaled to film critics and scholars that a film revolution was beginning.

His next film Pasiá took one step further toward a revolutionary style of film making. He would place his cameraman in the middle of the main square in a rural town and choose his actors from the inquisitive faces who came to investigate. Rossellini, excited by the promise of his American producer, Rod Geiger, to bring along famous American actors like Lana Turner and Gregory Peck to interpret his script, was disappointed when he was presented with a group of unknown theater actors (Films 68). Since the main theme of this film is interaction between two foreign cultures, Rossellini first observed a personal chemistry between the actors in each episode. He finalized the script only after the actors of the episodes met with their foreign counterpart and developed a rapport.

After the tragic death of his son, Marco Romano in 1946, Rossellini's next film Germania anno zero was filled with pain, violence and pessimism. It resulted in an attempt to discover, through death, the reason for living (Rondolino 62) . It was financed by a French production house and filmed in that country's Berlin sector. Like his previous film, Rossellini first tried to find his actors in the streets of Berlin. He placed his camera man in the center of a town square as he did for a previous film but was surprised when nobody came to watch. The people's search for food took precedence over the follies of film making. Finally, he found Edmund in a local circus, where his parents performed as stunt horse riders (Aprà 61). Edmund's father, who, interestingly enough, had been a silent film actor in previous years, was discovered in a public hospital. Ironically, Edmund's sworn Nazi brother came from a dignified university family and had been kept a prisoner of the Gestapo during the war. Finally, Edmund's sister was discovered as she was waiting in a bread line. A former ballerina, Rossellini was drawn to her by the desperation in her face.

The Concept of Reality: Rossellini's Neorealist Trilogy