Roma città aperta is often considered a ‘transitional’ film. To what extent does it exemplify the new Neorealist aesthetic, and to what extent does it still bear traces of the ‘classical’ cinema of the Fascist era?
Roberto Rossellini, the director of Roma città aperta (1945) was arguably the father of neorealism films and modern cinema. Rossellini has been ‘credited with helping to initiate and guide a revolution in and reinvention of modern cinema.” Rossellini himself was credited for the development of cinema, however Roma città aperta is highly regarded as a ‘transitional’ film, as it differed and offered a varied insight and genre compared to the films created under Mussolini and classical Hollywood.
Neorealism is ‘a naturalistic movement in Italian literature and cinema that emerged in the 1940s.’ The idea of the neorealism movement, was to give the audience a real portrayal of human life, and to encourage empathy and connection. The aim of the new movement was to reflect on the issues that developed after the second world war and to demonstrate the social problems that Italian’s faced after 1945. This clearly was a modern and new approach to cinema, as films produced and created earlier, specifically under Mussolini were different entirely. Films before neorealism, were influenced by Hollywood and came from a ‘dream factory.’ However, films such as Roma città aperta, and the rest of Rossellini’s war trilogy, Germania Anno Zero and Paisà created a new movement and were well received. Roma città aperta was the first film to be released after the second world war, and it immediately received a good critical response, with the Times in 1946 calling it ‘unquestionably one of the strongest dramatic films yet made about the recent war.’
On the one hand, Roma città aperta does exemplify the new neorealist aesthetic and did act as a transitional film. Firstly, this is evident with the elements of film that Rossellini used in the piece, combining both techniques from typical film studio’s, such as melodrama, with entirely new neorealist approaches. This is demonstrated by Rossellini’s choice to shoot scenes both in a studio and on the streets of Rome. This allowed the viewer to resonate with the picture, to understand what Rome truly looked like after the war ended, which is a fundamental principle of neorealism cinema, to make people empathise and sympathise. Another part of Rossellini’s Roma città aperta that combines both traditional film and the new wave of neorealism, was the decision to hire both professional and non professional actors. Contrary to beliefs and myths that circulated in film reviews, not all actors were non professional, in fact only actors that were more background characters, such as German Nazi’s were unprofessional. Furthermore, the techniques used create a newsreel effect, something that is frequent in various neorealism films such as La terra trema.(1948) These techniques show a clear step forward in film, and does make Roma città aperta a transitional film, as it combined both old and new methods of creating film. Therefore, Roma città aperta did exemplify the neorealist aesthetic.
On the other hand, Roma città aperta still bears traces of the classic fascist cinema era. This can be argued with the fact that,