Criterion Sunday 500: “Roberto Rossellini’s War Trilogy”

Unlike earlier Criterion box sets, the spine numbering for this one is rather contorted, as it follows the three films it collects. One suspects this was so that it could get the lovely even round number of 500. These three films are very much the ones that made Rossellini’s reputation, even if they weren’t his first. Rome Open City (1945) was filmed during the tail end of World War II, while Paisan (1946) was filmed in the aftermath with a series of shorter stories dealing with characters facing great moral quandaries. Yet for all these two films’ bleakness, they still can’t touch the final of the three, filmed in German amongst the fresh rubble of Berlin. Germany Year Zero (1948) is hardly a story of rebirth though and feels like something final and utterly bleak instead. Still, all three are beautiful, necessary works of cinema that remain among the finest to come out of Italy.


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