Il Generale della Rovere DVD
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Directed by Roberto Rossellini
Produced in 1959
Main Language - Italian with English subtitles
Vittorio De Sica, Vittorio Caprioli, Hannes Messemer
Vittorio De Sica stars in this understated masterpiece from Rossellini, about a petty thief's transformation during the German occupation. Sheer craftsmanship at work, says Pasquale Iannone.
As renowned and influential a director as Roberto Rossellini is, significant parts of his filmography still remain alien to English-speaking audiences. While his neorealist war trilogy of the 1940s – Rome Open City (1945), Paisà (1946) and Germany Year Zero (1947) – has securely entered the canon together with Cahiers du cinéma favourite Journey to Italy (1954), there are several important works that are still relatively unknown.
This year’s Cannes Film Festival has seen the launch of a major restoration project that will finally bring films such as L’Amore (1948) and The Machine To Kill Bad People (1952) to wider audiences.
Having already received the restoration treatment is Il generale della Rovere, a 1959 film that saw Rossellini return to the themes of occupation, collaboration and resistance explored in his neorealist work. Set in war-torn Genoa in 1943, it’s the story of Emanuele Bardone (Vittorio De Sica), an inveterate swindler and gambler who, after apprehension by the Nazi authorities, is sent to prison where he is forced to impersonate a dead partisan general in order to obtain information on resistance activities. However, as the fake general makes friends with the other prisoners, he becomes a leader of sorts, and he begins to question his actions.
The film arrived at a propitious time for Rossellini. He had just returned from filming a TV documentary in India and was going through a very public divorce. Critics and audiences seemed to have abandoned him. He decided to return to the subject that had always fascinated him – the moral choices forced upon ordinary people during the war. For the central role of Bardone, Rossellini turned to actor-director De Sica who delivers one of his finest, most restrained performances as the unscrupulous rascal turned unlikely hero. Rossellini employs carefully orchestrated long takes throughout with wartime Genoa recreated entirely in the studios of Cinecittà. Rather than appear jarringly artificial, the studio shooting gives the film a poetic quality not dissimilar to that of Visconti’s doomed romance White Nights (1957).
Il generale della Rovere proved to be a major success for Rossellini, winning the prestigious Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 1959. He had proved to critics and public alike that before anything else, he was a master craftsman.
Roberto Rossellini's understated masterpiece, Il Generale Della Rovere is based on a true story, and is the study of a man's transformation during the German occupation of Milan.
Vittorio De Sica plays the petty thief who is sent to jail as part of a German plan to to bring the Italian resistance fighters among the prisoners out into the open. He assumes the identity of the General Della Rovere, but as the fake general slowly makes friends with the other prisoners, he becomes a leader of sorts, and his conscience begins to trouble him.
Winner of the Golden Lion at the 1959 Venice Film Festival.
Publisher: Arrow Films
Length: 133 mins
Cat No: FCD494
Format: DVD B&W