TSPDT Greatest Films #251 Germania anno zero aka Germany Year Zero (Roberto Rossellini, 1948)
With his Roma, citta aperta, Roberto Rossellini invented the Italian Neorealism. It was not a film genre but more like a current or a different approach to filmmaking. Rossellini wanted to tell "real" stories of "real" people with the few or if possible no dramatic or manipulative elements.
With Germania anno zero Rossellini clearly annonces his intentions to bring hope and faith in the lives of all those who suffered during and after World War II. With objective camera and objective storytelling he wanted to tell the story of Edmund the more realistic possible. His camera is constantly moving, the lighting is crude or very dark, it gives a documentary-like aspect to the feature. This is Italian Neorealism at its best.
A young boy, Edmund twelve years old lives with his sick father, his older sister waiting for her husband to come back from the front, and his older brother hiding from the police because he didn't surrender when Allies troops entered Berlin. They manage to survive with the minimum.
Those desperate times meant desperate measures and to feed his family Edmund stole and sold records of speechs by the Führer for his ex-teacher. This teacher has an important influence on Edmund. When the boy turns back again to his teacher for more help because his father is very ill he misundertood what the teacher told him and made an irrevesible mistake. He murders his father with poison. On some level it could be a very compassionate gesture to be able to dispense his father from pain and his family from this weight they had to carry.
It could only be a child that could think without remorse like that. It shows how the people of Germany (Edmund) were intoxicated by the Führer(the teacher)'s speechs and they could have murdered millions of jews in cold blood. The worst in that case was that the murders past on the people of Germany but were conducted by the Nazi regime that hypnotized and manipulated the population.
This landmark in Italian film is remarquable and I truly consider it as a masterpiece. Having only seen Roberto Rossellini's Roma, citta aperta I'm looking forward to see his Stromboli, Journey to Italy, and The Rise to Power of Louis XIV, etc.
A review by Michaël Parent