Rossellini's Transitional Films: A Step Toward a New Reality

These two transitional films, L'Amore and La macchina ammazzacattivi , though not organized around a central theme, seemed to be important steps in Rossellini's transition from the entanglements of the Neorealistic prescription to a new psychological realism. They reflected Rossellini's changing perspective and maturity from a superficial portrayal of reality to one of a more intense and profound nature dealing with a psychological focus.

In L'Amore , primarily in the first episode, Rossellini assumed the role of a scientist who studied his subject in a sterile laboratory environment. First, he used the plan-sequénce method as a microscope to filter out the subject's environment, pulling her into the laboratory to focus on her. The subject was encapsulated in her simple bedroom and the scientist set out to observe how she operates in her microcosm. Separated from the massive amount of variables in the outside world, she can still be observed as she interacts with her environment. This study, though quite telling, seemed cold and harsh as the plan-sequénce method calls for the placement camera in an extreme close-up, recording her most intimate moments. In effect, Rossellini opened up the door to her room to the public and the viewer took a fly-on-the-wall perspective to watch her actions. This film was the most evident step leading up the study of complex emotions within the Solitude Trilogy. He studied Magnani within a simple environment before focusing upon other characters in a more complex environment.

La Macchina Ammazzacattivi is a very clever film which can be viewed on three levels; as a comedy, a moral statement, and a statement on the ability of the cinema to relate truth to the audience. The most interesting level is the third. Rossellini attempted to demonstrate to the viewer that photographic images alone do not have any moral value (Films 96). Photographic images could only take meaning when meaning is inserted by the director. Therefore, photographic realism could only be achieved through some degree of deception otherwise it would have been a bunch of stacked images which reflected an activity but without any meaning. In La macchina ammazzacattivi Rossellini demonstrated his discovery by showing that the cinema could give incorrect information in its images (95). For example, when the family in the car hits the old man, the daughter exclaims that it must have been St. Andrew simply because his name is scrawled on a nearby rock. When the very same man gives Celestino the power to freeze people, the viewer assumes the camera gives him the ability to act ethically since, after all, a saint did give him the power. The old man fully supports Celestino as he freezes the most selfish and dishonest people in the town. However, since, according to Rossellini, the camera was a morally neutral object, the photographs Celestino takes only can take on a sense of morality through his perspective. It is Celestino's inner sense of morality which drives him to choose his deserving victims. The audience's perspective changes only when the old man reveals himself to be a devil and all of Celestino's actions take on a different angle. By fooling the viewer for the entire length of the film, Rossellini proved that the cinema did not have the capacity of giving solely true information. In effect, he asserted that reality was more obscure than originally thought and more difficult to discern; it is not black and white. Rossellini proved this statement by Celestino having to take a picture of a picture in order to freeze his victims instead of directly photographing the people (95). He is two steps away from reality.

Rossellini's end to the film was a signal to his audience that they must be careful when watching films because reality was an illusion formed from the director's perspective. From this, it seemed that Rossellini discovered that cinematic realism was more complex than just simply recording images. Rather, images of this sort showed a materialistic reality, that of existing, and lack any sense of moral value.

In his next set of works, The Solitude Trilogy, Rossellini drew from the discoveries that he made in these transitional films.

Rossellini's Solitude Trilogy