What a film to drop on 1948! I was surprised to hear it got a so-so reception. Yes, it makes its points through unnecessary contrivances, as does most of neo-realism. But the haunted face of the young boy, the simultaneous ambiguity and clarity of Nazi Germany's defeated citizens, and most of all the restless camerawork—always circling—were ahead of their time. A raw cry to hold onto life, no matter the circumstance.
Reality is often more harrowing than any post-apocalyptic fantasy you can dream up. As a depiction of hell on earth (the only hell there is), there is few films that capture the horror of a society destroyed. When life is degraded to this level, our most animalistic tendencies will shine through.
There's not enough time or strength in the scenes, there's no emotion on Rossellinni's camera, and most of the time its the music that transmits the dramatic force. The only thing that really works in this movie is the relation of the characters with the space: the mass destruction of Berlin is really impressive, but it doesn't prevent the film from being a complete bore with a predictable and over the top finale.
Now I see. Now I see what Andre Bazin was talking about. I do not just understand. I feel it in my guts. How fresh images for the thought. How can this film speak to me as from yesterday? What has happened to a world where the sight of a handle instantly give a boy associations to a weapon, a gun? These are questions I can't answer. But I can keep them like a flame, as a living image, in my thought.
An extraodrinarily chilling and moving depiction of human remains (corpoeal, psychological, and moral) amidst ruins. Rossellini's despairing account of moral dislocation, collective trauma and guilt is conveyed with an ontological depth, rarely encountered in cinema. Interior and exterior shots mesh in terms of emotional emptiness as Edmund wanders into Leviathan's entrails before his surrender to meaninglessness.