Open City

A wartime bread-riot: Pina (Anna Magnani) stoops to pick up a loaf. “You?” a man asks. “Should I starve?” she says. Then she gives him the bread; he shouldn't starve either. The raw courage, and raw terror, of individuals caught up in the implicit violence of life under fascism is made explicit in Open City. Pina is the pregnant lover of a Resistance worker; the priest who is to marry them “tomorrow,” Don Pietro, runs errands for the underground. Magnani's portrait-proud, plebeian, sardonic-struck a chord, as if a human being had never been captured on film before. Indeed, Rossellini seems to have removed the “screen”; our heroes don't even get close-ups for their death scenes. But in Aldo Fabrizi's Don Pietro, and in the little boys who whistle a Resistance song to comfort him as he awaits a firing squad, this film has a redemptive power that is overwhelming.

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