Germany Year Zero DVD
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Directed by Roberto Rossellini
Produced in 1947
Main Language - Italian with English subtitles
David Parkinson acclaims Roberto Rossellini's insightful neo-realist film, described by Martin Scorsese as a 'prayer for compassion to the postwar world'.
The concluding part of the war trilogy that commenced with Rome, Open City (1945) and Paisà (1946), Germany Year Zero has never really been given its due. Only Wolfgang Staudte's celebrated 'rubble film' The Murderers Are Among Us (1946) can match this neo-realist masterpiece for its insights into the misery, shame and humiliation experienced by a German people who had not only been defeated, but also occupied and divided. Yet Roberto Rossellini wasn't interested in the political aspect of his story. He was solely concerned with the human toll the Second World War had taken on innocents, culprits and victims alike. No wonder Martin Scorsese once said, 'I see this film as a prayer from Rossellini to the postwar world, a prayer for compassion.'
Opening in a graveyard, the action is set in a decimated Berlin and centres on 12 year-old Edmund Moeschke, who is forced to take any job he can find to support a father who is too ill to work (Ernst Pittschau), a soldier brother who is terrified of being arrested as a war criminal (Franz-Otto Krüger) and a sister (Ingetraud Hinze) who hangs around the nightclubs frequented by foreign troops in the hope of cadging cigarettes. However, a meeting with his disgraced teacher (Erich Gühne) - a paedophile who still clings to his Nazi ideals - suggests a hideous solution to Moeschke's problems.
Unflinchingly depicting the dehumanising impact of conquest on a guilt-ridden nation, this harrowing study of social disintegration is held together by an exceptional performance by Edmund Moeschke, a circus hand who had never acted before and who was chosen because he resembled Rossellini's recently deceased son, Romano, to whom the film is dedicated. Yet even more significant than Moeschke being deprived of his childhood is Rossellini's empathy with ordinary folks paying a pitiless price for acquiescing in tyranny.
The sight of Berliners fighting over the carcass of a dead horse, kids slaving for a pittance and women prostituting themselves can never be as shocking as the footage of the liberated concentration camps. But by incrementally darkening the imagery to show how peace can still lead to the corruption of a boy seeking only to do his best for his family, Rossellini urges the world not to repeat the mistakes of victory in the Great War by allowing the vanquished to reclaim their dignity and relinquish tragedy for hope.
David Parkinson on 29th March 2010
Author of 193 reviews
Germany Year Zero is the final part of Rossellini's great neo-realist war trilogy, (which also includes Rome, Open City and Paisa). The long opening tracking shot through the devastated streets of Berlin under the Occupation in 1945 sets the almost hallucinatory tone, with the focus of the story being a 13-year-old boy's degradation under the social conditions of the defeated city.
Rossellini knew that in war, everyone is a victim. Martin Scorsese once said about the film, 'I see this film as a prayer from Rossellini to the postwar world, a prayer for compassion.'
Length: 71 mins
Format: DVD B&W
Released: 3rd May 2010
Cat No: MON001DVD
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