One night in Rome during the nine months of the nazi occupation: some German soldiers are crossing Piazza di Spagna, while, from the opposite direction, a military vehicle approaches and stop at the entrance of a palace. Shutters slightly opened allow to catch a glimpse of the profile of an old woman who watches other soldiers getting off the vehicle. In the meantime, in the terrace, a man goes around furtively and leaving at his back the dark outlines of Trinità dei Monti, he flees away upon the roofs that go towards the Spanish Embassy. The breathless getaway with which Roma Città Aperta (Open City) begins was an idea of the author of the script, Sergio Amidei, who recalls in it his personal experience when he was wanted by the Nazi police for being a member of the clandestine Communist Party. In his house actually met some of the most important leaders who had just returned from France. Amidei used to talk with them regularly about the problems of the country, politics and, often, about cinema too. The Nazis, who were suspicious of the continuous comings and goings of people to Amidei’s flat, one night arrived to arrest him, but he managed to elude them jumping around the roofs of the Spanish Embassy (See M. Giammuso, Life of Rossellini, Rome 2004, p.82).
The main character of the getaway in Roma Città Aperta is not Amidei, but the engineer George Manfredi. The German soldiers who are on his steps are the SS commander of the Gestapo, the lieutenant colonel Herbert Kappler, who believes the engineer George Manfredi is one of the chiefs of the military committee of the CLN. A picture, discovered by the political police in the study of a photographer, shows him in front of Trinità dei Monti, together with Marina, a young soubrette that the engineer got to know in a variety theatre. The features of the man are unmistakably the same of the ones of a certain Ferraris Luigi who is listed in the file of the police as a dangerous enemy of Mussolini’s dictatorship. After being escaped to the arrest, Manfredi decides to hide himself in the house of his friend Francesco, in the Prenestino quarter. This latter works in a press and together with some colleagues prints the underground newspaper “L’Unità” in the storage room of a shop. However Francesco is not at home and the engineer is received by Nina, Francesco’s fiancé, a widow who lives in the next apartment. Nina has a son and another one she is expecting from Francesco. As a matter of fact she and Francesco will get married in a few days.
For a strange coincidence, Manfredi in Nina s' house meets her sister Lauretta, a girl who works in the variety show with Marina, who is her close friend. Not to arouse any suspicion of the girl, he pretends to be there just to leave a message for Marina. She should tell her that for a few days they could not meet each other. To Nina, the engineer gives instead the task to go to Don Pietro’s, the parish priest, and ask him to come to Francesco’s house. Manfredi had to carry out a mission: delivering one million Liras to a group of combatants of the Resistance of Tagliacozzo. He was supposed to meet one of them by the Tiburtine bridge, but now that he has been identified this would be too dangerous. He asks therefore to Don Pietro to substitute him.
While Don Pietro is going to the meeting place, a German soldier enters in the church and asks to talk with the priest. In a worry, Don Pietro receives him in his study, but as he understands that the soldier is a deserter he heaves a sigh of relief. Another priest, a common friend, recommended the soldier, who asks to Don Pietro to give him shelter for a while. Don Pietro goes then to the meeting place and at the agreed signal he delivers the money.
Open City by Roberto Rossellini part II >>