Open City Reviews
I like the one sardonic Nazi officer who gets drunk and blasphemies the whole Nazi effort. This displeases our lead antagonist, who persistently tries to remind him of the uniform he wears. But the officer continues, accusing this whole master race effort of nothing but violence.
Years before Hitchcock did it to Janet Leigh, Rosselini shocks us by killing off the lead in the second act, or as he calls it Part 1 - Anna Magnani's Pina is gone, and we are at a loss to wonder where the film goes from here. The narrative continues with the rebels and priest, and as disappointing as it is from a narrative perspective, it is telling us something about the nature of this Nazi cruelty. Experiencing them is not experiencing anything you want. That's for Indiana Jones, a needed escapist hero for our culture, someone who can fight back against all odds. But we see how impossible it is, how outnumbered, outranked, outgunned this society is. They are at the behest of weapons pointed towards their hearts at all times, and there is no mercy.
In contrast to Don Pietro, the portly middle-aged clown, are the young and handsome communists: Francesco and Manfredi. These two men are who the children aspire to be. The kids roam the streets wreaking havoc and referring to each other as "comrades." Pina sheepishly admits to Manfredi that she believes in God, and her main defense for her desire to be wed in a church is that it is preferable to being wed by a fascist in town hall. As it turns out, the atheist Resistance fighters embody what the people hope to be. The Church is a present force, but a largely incompetent and ridiculous one.
The Church gets redemption, however, in the final moments of Open City. Don Pietro refuses to relinquish the Resistance fighters, despite their lack of religious beliefs, and expresses an enlightened note of tolerance. Meanwhile, Manfredi's torture is reminiscent of the martyrdom of Christ, supporting the idea that religious ideals are powerful and relevant to the time frame of the film. At Don Pietro's execution, all the children who previously showed him no respect come out to mourn him. As they walk away, they are framed against a landscape of Rome, which prominently shows St. Peter's Church. Though the Church has flaws and weaknesses, Rossellini is establishing it - specifically in the form expressed by Don Pietro - as the bedrock of Italian society.