Paisan is a six-episode chronicle of wartime Italy recreating incidents in different locales, from Sicily at the time of the Allied invasion to the marshes of the Po Valley in the last months of the war. A triumph of neorealist method, Paisan incorporates fictional anecdotes into semi-documentary scenes of astonishing verisimilitude. The episodic structure leaves no time for illusions of completeness or drawn-out sentimentality. Rossellini cuts to the essential human qualities of the events he pictures, always with an eye for the extraordinary aspects of “ordinary” individual acts. There is much humor and irony in several vignettes dealing with the relations (even at the level of language) between the Italian citizens and the foreign (British and American) soldiery. The last sequence, however, is stark and moving tragedy depicting a band of partisans and OSS men waging a hopeless, lonely battle in the desolate swamps of the Po Delta.

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