Germany, Year Zero


Germany, Year Zero

Critics Consensus

An early masterpiece from director Roberto Rossellini, Germany Year Zero plunges viewers into real-life horror.



Total Count: 21


Audience Score

User Ratings: 2,675
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Movie Info

In the third and final film of Rossellini's WWII trilogy, the director shifts his focus from his native Italy to the bombed-out ruins of Berlin, where 12-year-old Edmund Koehler struggles for survival. Among the nine people he lives with are: a father, who is suffering from malnutrition and a fatal illness; a brother, who is a former Nazi soldier hiding to avoid arrest; and a sister, who has turned to prostitution. Scouring the rubble-strewn city for food, money, and cigarettes, he comes upon a former teacher, Herr Enning (Erich Guhne), who evinces a barely restrained sexual attraction to the boy while providing him with records of Hitler's speeches that can be bartered on the black market. He also drums into the boy a classic piece of Nazi propaganda about the importance of having the courage to let the weak be destroyed. Under his influence, the confused young protagonist heads down a tragic path.


Critic Reviews for Germany, Year Zero

All Critics (21) | Top Critics (5)

  • The colossal rubble of Berlin is not just an analogue to the collapse of the social order but an amazing sight, and the movie makes you feel the weight of every smashed façade and fallen stone.

    May 20, 2014 | Full Review…

    David Denby

    New Yorker
    Top Critic
  • Pic isn't acted but 'lived.' Pro and non-pro cast play it with uniform sincerity. Edmund Meschke is the most impressive of the lot, delivering a poignant, believable portrayal as the young disgraced hero.

    Mar 26, 2009 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Top Critic
  • A horror movie that declines to tease.

    Jun 24, 2006 | Full Review…
  • The sum effect of the presentation is a sense of bleak discomfort and despair, unrelieved by any purge of the emotions.

    Mar 25, 2006 | Full Review…
  • To the critics of the time, it seemed that Rossellini had betrayed the tenets of neorealism...It now appears as Rossellini's first mature work, pointing to his masterpieces of the 50s.

    Jan 1, 2000 | Full Review…
  • An unrelenting searchlight and a humane act of commiseration

    Aug 11, 2014 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Germany, Year Zero

  • Nov 15, 2014
    Even if it tends to diverge a bit from neorealism into melodrama, especially in its last moments, this is a gut-wrenching tale set against the wreckage of a post-war Berlin, about a tragic boy who embodies the pain of a collapsed society struggling to survive.
    Carlos M Super Reviewer
  • Jun 10, 2011
    While many argue that "Germany Year Zero" is just misery stacked upon misery with nothing else, sometimes that's life and is reality for people. This is the third and final film in Rossellini's War Trilogy and is by far the shortest and to the point, running at 73 minutes while the others are closer to 120 minutes. In no way does the run time hinder the message of the film, rather it makes the message clear and hard. The film's protagonist is a twelve year old boy named Edmund Koehler who along with his brother and sister must care for their weak and dying father. Edmund's older brother was in the German army and thus is in hiding due to the allied forces being in power at the end of WWII. This means that there are four people trying to surviving on three rations, leading them all to struggle day to day. Edmund helps in any way he can, often making mistakes and being taken advantage of in many ways but It's clear his intentions are heroic and noble. After helping an old teacher sell items and make a little money, Edmund begins to get brain washed by the teacher who constantly speaks of being brave and letting the weak die and the strong live. It's due to this that Edmund proceeds down a rough and ultimately fatal downwards spiral. The film itself is a lonely and dark coming of age film in wore torn Germany and is almost a horror film for the neo-realist genre.
    Chris B Super Reviewer
  • Jul 27, 2010
    Bresson would direct the exact equivalent of Rossellini's last neorealist war installment two decades later, but with a rural setting and a female lead, and it would be called Mouchette (1967). Powerful in its message, devastating in its implications, breathtaking in its hidden, underlying layers of controversial subject matter and undeniable poetry. Germany is in its year zero: a year of perdition, reconstruction and desperation. Rossellini, the master of immediate post-war neorealism. 99/100
    Edgar C Super Reviewer
  • May 02, 2010
    [font=Century Gothic]In "Germany, Year Zero," 12-year old Edmund(Edmund Meschke) does not go to school or play much, instead foraging for food in the ruins of postwar Berlin due to his family being short on ration cards because of his brother Karl-Heinz(Franz Gruger) being afraid to report to the police because of his wartime activities. His sister Eva(Ingetraud Hinz) helps out as much as she can, mooching cigarettes in the evening which can be traded in for food. While living in a multifamily apartment, all are in support of their invalid father(Ernst Pittschau). One day while trying to sell a scale, Edmund runs into Enning(Erich Guhne), an old teacher...[/font] [font=Century Gothic][/font] [font=Century Gothic]Directed by Roberto Rossellini, "Germany, Year Zero" is helped out enormously by location filming in developing a powerful portrait of a country trying to recover from a disastrous war. With little work and food to go around, the people are often forced to go hungry, a dire situation that is made worse if they have any sick that have to be cared for. While not judging any of the characters, the movie also makes the point that a lack of a moral authority in the wake of the poisonous Nazi regime can also lead to the unthinkable being possible again.[/font] [font=Century Gothic][/font]
    Walter M Super Reviewer

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