A historical & fictional space--the Nazi headquarters--rendered cinematically by way of three separate locations unrealistically placed next to one another: the central office, the expressionist torture room, & the cultural lounge where music is heard & card games are played. Rossellini generates a profound sense of movement between these spaces to show the mutual non-exclusiveness of their purposes. This is horror.
Rossellini masterfully captures the city in turmoil with an incredible mix of sociopolitical documentation and riveting melodrama. Ubaldo Arata's gritty cinematography is simply remarkable and one of the "all-time" contributions to the art of filmmaking.
Refusing a strictly theoretical and metaphysical examination of evil, "Rome, Open City" instead opts for a gritty appreciation of visceral human fear in the face of torture and death that perfectly matches its neorealist style. It is a film born of a very recent traumatic experience; because of that, I think it still feels like a masterpiece, fresh and important.
I agree the representation of Nazi occupation was cliché, but it doesn't affect the importance of this amazing film. what makes Rome Open City a truly awesome one, is the conditions at the time this film was made.
I'm usually harsh on this one because it has the most rigid classical structure of all Rossellini's work (which Rossellini himself considered a flaw), but every time I see this film it is so moving, so incredibly powerful on a gut level. One leaves this film feeling like a wounded animal. I'm not usually one for ranking filmmakers, but I'm beginning to fell that Rossellini is, bar none, the greatest.