Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Germany Year Zero

Germania, anno zero; Drama, Italy/ Germany, 1948; D: Roberto Rossellini, S: Edmund Meschke, Ingetraud Hinze, Franz-Otto Krüger, Erich Gühne, Ernst Pittschau

Berlin after the end of World War II. The Germans live in poverty and ruins, among them also the 12-year old boy Edmund who works heavy manual labor in order to earn some money. He lives in a small apartment with his sick father, older brother Karl-Heinz who doesn't work because he is hiding since he was an army soldier, and sister Eva who earns money by working as a prostitute. One day Edmund stumbles upon his former teacher Henning who gives him a gramophone record with Hitler's speech so that he can sell it. At the same time, he fills his young mind with dirty ideology, "explaining" to him that the weaker should die so that the stronger could live better. Edmund concludes it also applies to his sick father whom he secretly poisons. But Edmund realizes his mistake and commits suicide.

"Germany Year Zero", the last of Roberto Rosselini's trilogy of war, is another classic of Italian neorealist cinema in which the 'small man' is the hero and the most important link during period of crisis. Simple and gentle, refreshingly humane and bravura written film, it was produced in Italy, but filmed in ruins of German cities and in German language. From the exposition in which the narrator speaks how this isn't a film that accuses Germans, up to shocking scenes - people on the streets tear meet from a dead horse, boy Edmund works even though he is only 12, the family has no food so they sell a weighing-machine - Rossellini portrays the destiny of Germans in small in Edmund, showing how a whole nation must suffer because of one evil politician who wants war and deceives the masses, connecting evil with ignorance. From the plot where the evil teacher, still a sympathizer of the long misguided and ruined government, fills the young boy's mind with dirty ideology, one can detect the theme of soliciting a minor for a secret agenda. "Year Zero" as the last film in Rossellini's trilogy of the consequences of war, not the war itself, neatly sums up the sad message of the human spirit captured in the chaos of materialism.


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