Revisiting Roberto Rossellini's War Trilogy.

Deleted scenes, commentary, and more.
Feb. 9 2010 9:50 AM

The War Trilogy

No director has done more with rubble than Roberto Rossellini.

(Continued from Page 1)

Germany Year Zero'sterrifying depiction of psychological torment makes it the most powerful and disturbing film of the three. Shot in Berlin in 1946, the film is dedicated to Rossellini's eldest son, Romano, who died before filming began (ruptured appendix). It is the story of the final days of an angelic 15-year-old German boy named Edmund. His family torn apart by the war, his childhood violently truncated, Edmund has little to do but spend his days wandering through the wasteland of postwar Berlin.

Advertisement

To earn money for his starving family, he tries to pawn an old recording of Hitler's speeches to two Allied soldiers. When he plays the record on a wind-up Victrola, Hitler's voice rings out—"German people, set your hearts at rest! We shall overcome! Victory awaits us in the end!"—while Rossellini pans over rows of demolished buildings and the crumbled Reich Chancellery. An old man walking through the rubble with his son seizes up in surprise, as if he's heard a ghost. And he has. Hitler may be gone, but his spirit stalks the flattened city.

In Germany Year Zero Rossellini goes even further than before in his depiction of devastation. The camera brings the piles of debris into close focus, laying bare each loose brick and warped pipe, as if to expose the inner workings of a deranged mind. As Edmund becomes increasingly tormented, he shuts off, goes mute. The images of Berlin speak for him. He spends more and more time in the streets, gamboling through a ruined landscape that has become a physical representation of the damage inside him.

At one point during the grotesque final sequence, he wanders into an abandoned building. A piece of rubble attracts his attention. He picks it up and wipes it off. It looks, to him, like a gun. He fingers the trigger, raises it to his head, and fires.

TODAY IN SLATE

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore

And schools are getting worried.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

The XX Factor

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.

Politics

Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

Why a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Is Stirring Up Controversy

How Worried Should Poland, the Baltic States, and Georgia Be About a Russian Invasion?

Trending News Channel
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
  Life
Quora
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 20 2014 3:21 PM “The More You Know (About Black People)” Uses Very Funny PSAs to Condemn Black Stereotypes
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 20 2014 7:00 AM The Shaggy Sun
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.