Blu-ray Release: Roberto Rossellini’s War Trilogy

Blu-ray & DVD Release Date: July 11, 2017
Price: Blu-ray $49.99
Studio: Criterion


Roberto Rossellini is one of the most influential filmmakers of all time. And it was with his trilogy of films made during and after World War II – Rome Open City, Paisan, and Germany Year Zero – that he left his first transformative mark on cinema.

With the stripped-down aesthetic, largely nonprofessional casts, and unorthodox approaches to storytelling in Roberto Rossellini’s War Trilogy, these intensely emotional works were international sensations and came to define the neorealist movement. Shot in battle-ravaged Italy and Germany, these three films are some of our most lasting, humane documents of devastated postwar Europe, containing universal images of both tragedy and hope.

Here’re description of the three titles:

Rome Open City (1945)
This was Roberto Rossellini’s revelation, a harrowing drama about the Nazi occupation of Rome and the brave few who struggled against it. Though told with more melodramatic flair than the other films that would form this trilogy and starring some well-known actors – Aldo Fabrizi as a priest helping the partisan cause and Anna Magnani in her breakthrough role as the fiancée of a resistance member – Rome Open City (Roma città aperta) is a shockingly authentic experience, conceived and directed amid the ruin of World War II, with immediacy in every frame. Marking a watershed moment in Italian cinema, this galvanic work garnered awards around the globe and left the beginnings of a new film movement in its wake.

Roberto Rossellini’s 1946 drama Paisan

Paisan (1946)
Rossellini’s follow-up to his breakout Rome Open City was the ambitious, enormously moving Paisan (Paisà), which consists of six episodes set during the liberation of Italy at the end of World War II, and taking place across the country, from Sicily to the northern Po Valley. With its documentary-like visuals and its intermingled cast of actors and nonprofessionals, Italians and their American liberators, this look at the struggles of different cultures to communicate and of people to live their everyday lives in extreme circumstances is equal parts charming sentiment and vivid reality.

Germany Year Zero (1948)
The concluding chapter of Roberto Rossellini’s War Trilogy is the most devastating, a portrait of an obliterated Berlin, seen through the eyes of a twelve-year-old boy. Living in a bombed-out apartment building with his sick father and two older siblings, young Edmund is mostly left to wander unsupervised, getting ensnared in the black-market schemes of a group of teenagers and coming under the nefarious influence of a Nazi-sympathizing ex-teacher. Germany Year Zero (Deutschland im Jahre Null) is a daring, gut-wrenching look at the consequences of fascism, for society and the individual.

Criterion’s Blu-ray  editions of the collection (it was released on DVD back in 2010) contain the following:

* New high-definition digital restorations, with uncompressed monaural soundtracks
* Introductions by Roberto Rossellini to all three films
* Interviews from 2009 with Rossellini scholar Adriano Aprà, film critic and Rossellini friend Father Virgilio Fantuzzi, and filmmakers Paolo and Vittorio Taviani
* Audio commentary from 2009 on Rome Open City by film scholar Peter Bondanella
Once Upon a Time . . . “Rome Open City,” a 2006 documentary on the making of this historic film, featuring rare archival material and footage of Anna Magnani, Federico Fellini, Ingrid Bergman, and many others
Rossellini and the City, a 2009 video essay by film scholar Mark Shiel on Rossellini’s use of the urban landscape in The War Trilogy
* Excerpts from rarely seen videotaped discussions Rossellini had in 1970 about his craft with faculty and students at Rice University
Into the Future, a 2009 video essay about The War Trilogy by film scholar Tag Gallagher
Roberto Rossellini, a 2001 documentary by Carlo Lizzani, assistant director on Germany Year Zero, tracing Rossellini’s career through archival footage and interviews with family members and collaborators, with tributes by filmmakers François Truffaut and Martin Scorsese
Letters from the Front: Carlo Lizzani on “Germany Year Zero,” a podium discussion with Lizzani from the 1987 Tutto Rossellini conference
* Italian credits and prologue from Germany Year Zero
* Essays by James Quandt, Irene Bignardi, Colin McCabe, and  Jonathan Rosenbaum

Buy or Rent Roberto Rossellini’s War Trilogy

About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.