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Roberto Rossellini: his life between Neorealism and multimedia]

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Roma Città Aperta


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Roma by Federico Fellini


Open City, Roberto RosselliniRoberto Rossellini, one of the most significant authors of the Italian cinema and the father of Neorealism was born in Rome on May 8th, 1906. He interrupted his studies after the high school degree and undertook several activities: his interest in cinema begins as a scene maker, then as editor and finally as scriptwriter and director of documentaries, an experience that takes him “to adhere” to Truth.
Among the titles, commissioned to him by the Luce Institute, we find Daphne (1936), Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune (1936) or Submarine Fantasy (1939). Ethics and aesthetics of Rossellini begin to take shape in his first movie with the employ of no professional actors: “White Ship” (1941), first one of a trilogy on the topic of the war. “A Pilot Returns” and “The Man from the Cross” are war movies, that in reality show the horrors and the tragedies that war produces: cinema is therefore a means to shock man’s consciousness. His will to pursue a “didactic” ideal of the movie will be skilfully realized in Roma Città Aperta (1945), a personal manifesto of what will be later called Neorealism. Masterpiece of Rossellini and among the most important works in the cinema world, with this movie the artistic work is characterized by some constant elements like: the anonymity - the actors are not professionals -the live direct, being expression of contemporary voices. The movie is not immediately welcomed with enthusiasm although it reveals the possibility for the seventh art of being independent and free to express itself without any conditionings. The observation on the topic of the war and its consequences continues in the following years with two movies of great impact: Paisà (1946), a movie that tells in six episodes of the allied troops advance in the Italian Peninsula during the WWII, and Germania Anno Zero (Germany Year Zero, 1947), a bitter and lucid vision of a defeated country in the post-war period. Rossellini looks into one’s feelings and roles and it is in this way that a second phase of his production begins, strongly linked to the feminine figure, a woman not seen as a sexual object, but as a bearer of high values.

In the same years he starts a sentimental and artistic relationship with Ingrid Bergman: the American movie star is the main character in Stromboli, Terra di Dio (Earth of God 1949). The production of Francesco, Giullare di Dio (Francesco, Minstrel of God 1950) represents this need of Rossellini to face with religious feelings and the sense of divine grace. With Ingrid Bergman he will turn several movies among which Europe 51 (1952) and Giovanna d' Arco at the stake (1954). A period of crisis that takes him to India: his fascination for the Asian subcontinent is translated in India, MatriBuhmi (1958), half way between documentary and fiction.

The ‘60’s are characterized from the stylistic innovation point of view by less important, even if formally impeccable, movies such as Il Generale della Rovere (1959), or Era notte a Roma (It was night in Rome, 1960). These same years are characterized by Rossellini’s involvement with a new means, television, of which he perceives all its potentials, even the negative ones. His involvement is obviously for a positive use of it, television seen as a public service: Rossellini understands television and its capacity to be popular as major tool to free people from ignorance, to put them on their guard about any dictatorships, to spread ideals of freedom. He produces a series of monographic fictions on the evolution of man or the biography of illustrious characters: The Iron Age (1964), television documentary in 5 episodes, La lotta dell’uomo per la sua sopravvivenza (the fight of man for his survival, 1967), television documentary in 12 episodes, Socrates (1970), Pascal (1971). The pedagogical attempt is remarkable, not the same the aesthetic result. In 1974 he is again behind a cinecamera to direct “Anno uno” (Year one 1074) and “The Messiah” (1975): two movies that however have nothing to do with the great social moment and the brilliant intuitions of his post-war period production.

Rossellini, man of deep culture, is without any doubt a cinema man, but this is the most obvious aspect of an absolutely modern character, who did not have the chance to face with the means that would have totally absorbed him, if it only had been available to his time, that is computer and the possibility of multimedia. As a deep Humanist Rossellini put the bases for several Encyclopaedias, built with cross-references, the so-called “links”, he left the signs to read, but at the same time to listen and/or to see fragments of movies, documentaries, interviews; references to living characters but also to the great philosophers of the past.

The Roberto Rossellini Foundation works to the project, that will be ready in 2006, to make ready for use the four encyclopaedias to which the director dedicated a long time, to the point of inventing a machinery that permitted to hear/ see the audiovisual supports. His Encyclopaedias do not deal a chronological or alphabetical order but moves on four great areas: the Encyclopaedia of the history of Western Civilization, the Encyclopaedia of the encounters and confrontations among different cultural worlds, the Encyclopaedia of the universal feelings that rule the history of every place and time and at last the Encyclopaedia of the narrative principles and how to set.
Roberto Rossellini, cinema innovator with the Neorealism method, is first of all, one of the Italian characters richest in intuition heralding the spirit of the Twentieth century.

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