We all, film critics, filmmakers, film buffs, moviegoers, Western people and even people whose culture has been ‘influenced’, ‘transformed’ or ‘modernized’ by the West, we are all condemned to Rossellini. Needless to say, since all major directors transform our conception of film, this statement roughly applies to any of them. But the truism finds a particular shift here, being about work which dramatically changed not only the way films were (made), but also the place and sense of cinema as a whole within Western culture.
The son of a prominent Italian architect, Roberto, together with his brother Renzo and his sisters Marcela and Micaela (the three of them younger than him), had the comfortable but not too ostentatious upbringing of children of bourgeois homes in a social environment where aristocracy, though completely ruined and decadent, still held a prestigious and not only decorative status – as a mummified ideal of excellence. Raised pre-War World II, in a society whose Christian traditionalism somehow ‘delayed’ the effects of the modernization process, Rossellini as a child and teenager lived out the same process portrayed by Proust along his youth and middle age – though with the Italian particularities depicted by Rossellini’s contemporary Luchino Visconti in Il Gatopardo (The Leopard, 1963). He developed thus under this 19th century bourgeois conception of the world, its heritage clearly evident in his lifelong practical and active interest for invention.
His ideological horizon – regardless of his personal interests or beliefs – was the closest possible to the one in which cinema as an apparatus had its roots – the generation whose grandparents witnessed the arrival of photography, the generation that invented cinema. Yet his work is neither a sequel nor a return to Lumière, but an important testimony to the conflicts this tradition faced when all its dreams equating technological progress with human welfare broke down. From that moment on, not only was the social idea of technology entirely altered, but also cinema’s place, function and bonds to society.
The complexity of Rossellini’s work, as well as the number of problems it raises, forces one to a non-chronological analysis. However, the next paragraphs could be useful to those readers not familiar with his extensive filmography, with its many difficult to access titles.
Fascist period (1941-1944): Being 16 when Mussolini took power, Rossellini’s formative period was under fascism. He started his directorial career with three fascist propaganda features. Downplayed by his sympathizers and avoided by the director himself (Rossellini doesn’t mention them in 1955 when Cahiers du Cinéma invited him to write a personal account of his work to that point published under the name “Dix ans de cinema” ), (1) this period was one of the main skeletons his opponents waved in his face. It is fair to say that, despite what has been written to ‘justify’ this period, the works are far from being ambiguous – they are fascist propaganda.
Postwar trilogy (1945-1947): Only two years after his last fascist feature, Rossellini completed Roma, città aperta (1945), one of the most important – and immediate – antifascist films, considered by many the beginning of Italian neo-Realism. This direction was emphasized in his following Paisà (1946), but Germania, anno zero (1947), the last of the trilogy, announced an important change. Perceived by his contemporaries, this change would lead to a long running argument between Rossellini and Marxist neo-Realist theoreticians and critics.
‘Modern’ film (1949-1954): Starting with Stromboli (1949), this period is marked by Ingrid Bergman’s participation, even if it includes films where the Hollywood Swedish actress – who became Rossellini’s lover during and wife after shooting the first film – had no role. The change perceived in Germania, anno zero increased as well as the controversy, and Marxist critics (Italian and French) accused the director of betraying neo-Realism. At this point, Cahiers du Cinéma named him “father of modern film”.
Disenchantment (1957-1962): After divorcing Ingrid Bergman, who beyond being his wife had become the central “material” of his work, Rossellini traveled to India in 1957, where he completed a ten-part documentary series on 16mm. for Italian television and a 90-minute 35mm. feature. This opened up a four year period where Rossellini returned to war films, but he also began harboring a certain disillusionment about the cinema.
Cultural history (1964-1977): In 1963, Rossellini announced that he had abandoned cinema and would start working in television. He directed nine telefilms on historical subjects and six short documentaries, claiming TV could be used as an educational device. Near the end of these years, he completed two biographical features – Anno uno (1974), about Alcide de Gasperi, Christian democrat politician and first postwar Italian president, and Il messiah (1975). Both were very badly received by Italian society, and Rossellini – who claimed they were within the realm of his history project pursued thus far on television – was accused of being reactionary and selling out.
Note: this general guide doesn’t include two transitional films made in 1948 between the war trilogy and the modern film period. Also, during this modern period Rossellini directed some films that can’t be considered inside that group. All particularities are commented in the filmography.
Filmed shortly after Rome’s liberation, Roma, città aperta is a three war-martyrs chronicle. Lacking financial resources, it was shot on the actual locations, using different film stocks, in conditions that made lighting difficult, rendering a documentary visual style to the final film. This, added to the colloquial-like langue in the dialogue, and the very naturalistic acting, represented the core of a new “style” – Italian neo-Realism. The national and international success of the film earned Rossellini the title of “father of neo-Realism”. (And this has remained one of the most popular hypotheses [at least in reference bibliography] about him.)
Roma, città aperta actually differs from the neo-Realist corpus (even from Rossellini’s Paisà, his closest to neo-Realism) in significant ways. One of them, not the most important though, is the use of professional actors in the leading roles. Much more crucial is the melodramatic configuration of narrative. It is true that neo-Realism didn’t avoid sentimentality, even sentimentalism, and in this overall sense a good part of it is ‘melodramatic’ (De Sica’s Ladri di Biciclette [The Bicycle Thief, 1947] for instance), but the classical melodrama figures and rhetorical strategies present in Roma, città aperta (including a lesbian vampire villain) are well outside neo-Realist limits. Finally, Roma, città aperta‘s classical treatment of space is the opposite to the deep-focus long shot technique – a technique which, although valued by Bazin in and of itself, is a general characteristic of the neo-Realist aesthetic.
So, it is very curious that this was named the ‘first’ neo-Realist film – and not Visconti’s Ossessione (1942) for instance, a previous ‘neo-Realist-like’ melodrama. Making 1945 neo-Realism Year Zero denied that this aesthetic search had begun under (and within) fascism – actually, Rossellini’s first film, La nave bianca (1941), was written by a marine officer who in 1941 had successfully completed Uomini sul fondo, a film about the life of a submarine crew which, in its basics, could be described as neo-Realist (non-professional actors, documentary look, etc.). At the same time, this critical intervention relating style to the postwar experience gave neo-Realism a moral sense it couldn’t have had if considered related to fascism – giving birth to perhaps the greatest myth in film criticism, i.e. that realism is somehow more ‘true’ than other representational modes. (2)
Neo-Realism to neo-Realists (whether they were critics, theoreticians or filmmakers) was a question of appropriation and legitimacy – not of program. This is why once Rossellini’s work developed away from what was traced to be neo-Realist, the neo-Realists needed to ‘expel’ him. The apple of discord had two faces, and they were explicit in his two-part film L’amore (1948), starring Italian prima donna Anna Magnani (his lover since Roma, città aperta) – the notion of man as an individual and the notion of suffering as a way to enlightenment (sustained by a religious-based conception of the unspeakable). Both ideas, at that point, represented neo-Realist bad consciousness, the signs of a denied past – more than the image of a present enemy.
But the neo-Realists weren’t the only ones trying to take neo-Realism over. In his letter to Guido Aristarco known as ‘Defense of Rossellini’, (3) André Bazin proposed a reformulation of the concept of neo-Realism that instead of expelling Rossellini placed him at its very center. The intention was to not only preserve Rossellini within what Italians considered the sole valid cinema, but to also preserve Rossellini as a realist, correlating with Bazin’s own conceptions of cinema and its development. Discussing this point is not banal since today few informed critics would support that Rossellini’s work is neo-Realist, yet it is commonly accepted that his films have to be understood within the context of filmic concerns with the capturing of reality. I disagree with this. How can a body of work which incorporates propaganda films and historical films, for example, ‘capture’ reality? For it is obvious that propaganda requires a precise manipulation of reality, and as for the historical films, the camera can hardly capture the reality of something that no longer exists and is being reconstructed. That Rossellini in public statements used the current language of his day shouldn’t interfere with the critical work we do today. The truth is that reality cannot be considered the major concern or central issue in his work.
Appearances and knowledge
To the Italian neo-Realists, reality and truth are not the same: reality (considered that which is possible to observe in everyday life) is the way to truth, and truth is the set of production relationships that rules society – the Marxist inspiration is evident here. For Rossellini, on the other hand, such a split has no sense, since truth is the reality (and, of course, reality is not the visible). The visible, for Rossellini, is no more than the way the existing appears to man. Nevertheless, this doesn’t downplay the importance of perception, because these appearances are the only human way to knowledge. The thing is we learn from what we see, but there’s something out of sight. Thus, we cannot access truth through knowledge. Truth is different from knowledge because it’s out of sight and out of language (it is the inexpressible itself), and it’s only by reaching the borders of (our) knowledge that we may access (and it would be better to say experience) truth.
Of course, this knowing by appearances does not imply that each and every human being learns everything via perception. A person’s knowledge also includes information received from other people, i.e. from previous community experience. Besides, knowledge not only has a cognitive or perceptual dimension – being at the center of human action (what we do is guided by our knowledge), it has an ethical side. When we say something is ‘true’ we are just saying that it is right or wrong according to our knowledge. But this has nothing to do with truth, because as the unspeakable, as what’s out of world, truth presupposes shock, change and even the impossibility to immediately tell right from wrong, for it reveals to the individual that there’s something that confounds the conceptual structure supporting all his actions up to that moment.
These dynamics between knowledge, truth and human action are evident in Stromboli, Europa 51 (1952) and Viaggio in Italia (1953), the titles influential in naming Rossellini ‘father of modern film’. But I must say that what I like the most about Rossellini’s work is not the exposition of these ideas, but how every film focuses on different aspects of the relation between some or all of these three factors until finally questioning the relation between man and cinema. As I said at the beginning, Rossellini’s films don’t present a conception of the world but its crisis, and in doing so redefine cinema place and sense.
The fascist Un piloto ritorna (1942) – to take one of the films that is really an acid test regarding any hypothesis on Rossellini’s whole work – is constructed onto the knowledge-human action side of the triangle. It starts with a scene in which a woman is giving a child a piano lesson, and then goes to a young man, her son, who arrives at a military base where pilots are trained. Later, his plane is shot down. Captured by the enemy, he’s taken to a concentration camp, where he finds an Italian girl with whom he falls in love. Nevertheless, given the first opportunity he steals an enemy plane and goes back to his land. Entering Italian territory he’s mistaken for the enemy and attacked by his own compatriots, and after finally landing he’s informed that Greece (from where he has just escaped) has capitulated. Here we have a character who acts in conformity with his soldier’s knowledge, and from this perspective his action taken is good and even noble (he renounces love). Yet his action loses value due to the restricted range of this knowledge. Accepting his training as the sole source of knowledge, not exploring its borders through his own relation with appearances, the pilot’s knowledge lacks individual dimension. Because of that, his heroic act is finally absurd or, at the least, unnecessary. The parallel between the initial piano lesson and the pilot training at the beginning (stressed by the piano teacher being the first ‘trainer’ of the child who later became a pilot) is significant: artistic expression encompasses a technical side that requires a certain training (which paradoxically was the same situation Rossellini faced at that moment), and being a training that is not only a development of skills but the shaping of future action, the sense and value of the artist’s work face the same danger as those of the pilot’s action.
It has to be said that the action value determined by community knowledge does not imply, under any circumstances, cultural relativism in Rossellini’s ethics. Knowledge determines ethical action, and knowledge has a community basis, it is true. But since this community basis must be confronted with personal experience and active searching, knowledge is an individual responsibility. On the other hand, Rossellini himself lived under these conceptions, and accepted – even if as a basis – the knowledge of his community (described at the beginning). His ethics are in no way relativist. They are undeniably ethnocentric.
A good example of the importance of this community basis to Rossellini’s own knowledge and ethics within his work is the treatment homosexuality receives in it, a treatment in line with the clearly reactionary prejudices of his time. The already mentioned lesbian character in Roma, città aperta, the pederast professor in Germania, anno zero and the opportunist bisexual of Anima nera (i.e. Dark Soul) (1962) are presented as the incarnations of deviation, perversion and corruption, i.e. as pure Evil – contradicting Guarner’s enthusiastic but not very critical assertion that Rossellini “always made not judging his characters a law” (4) (typical of the classical hurried assumptions in which all critics make when we need to say – who knows why – that besides being a good filmmaker our subject was also a good person).
Yet those caricatures are not the worst treatment we gay and lesbian are given in his work, since even demonized and marked as undesirable others, we are still there, alive, present, different, queer. The worst is quite the opposite: the complete exclusion of homosexuality from the telefilm Socrate (1970). All these television films were announced by Rossellini – and supported by sympathizing critics – as serious and faithful reconstructions of history with educational purposes. Given this framework, by hiding the philosopher’s homosexuality Rossellini condemned the Socrates project to complete failure – it misrepresented not only his hero’s biography but also his time, since no serious reconstruction of Athenian society can afford avoiding the key role male relationships played in it (from the political education of youth to the oppression of women, perhaps a more sincere and unrepressed machismo). Regarding the exposition of Socrates’ thought, which some critics claim is the true aim of the project, it’s enough to pay some attention to the mutilation of Plato’s Phaedrus (not to mention the absence of its twin brother, The Symposium). (5) But Rossellini went beyond this. Contradicting every single piece of the testimonies (Plato and Xenophon, basically) the film was based on, the philosopher’s wife Xanthippe, portrayed as a good Christian wife, is given such relevance and presence that Socrates becomes almost straight, a family man. As I’ve said before, this is much worse than presenting negative gay figures, since this exclusion, erasing our desire from cultural history, constitutes textual annihilation – and there’s no need to remember who got murdered a few years later in Italy to point out that, even today, this annihilation is far from being limited to texts.
However, as hateful and unbearable as it is to me (and I hope to you), this treatment is completely coherent with Rossellini’s conception of knowledge, and therefore ethics, based in doxa. If we simplify the problem and say his telefilms are scrupulous reconstructions of important historical moments in the quest for knowledge or civilization, we won’t be able to discuss their importance nor their meaning. Fortunately, we don’t need to go beyond the work to find an answer.
In 1962, Rossellini directed Illibatezza, a 25-minute episode in the collective RoGoPaG – named after the directors who took part in it: Rossellini, Godard, Pasolini and Gregoretti. Ana Maria, an Italian flight attendant who enjoys filming her life on 8mm and sending the footage to her boyfriend, is progressively harassed during her stay in Bangkok by Joe, an American executive. At the beginning she doesn’t worry – one day they meet outdoors, and after explaining to him how to use his own 8mm camera, she even poses for him. But when the situation gets hostile, her boyfriend seeks the professional advice of a psychiatrist who diagnoses Joe as a man suffering from a fetishist fascination related to the Oedipus complex, and suggests Ana Maria change her appearance. Thus, she shifts from brunette mother figure to dissipated platinum blonde, discouraging her admirer who winds up crying while caressing the old Ana Maria’s image projected onto one of his room’s walls. For 12 years, this would be Rossellini’s last film for the cinema.
In its compactness, Illibatezza carries one of the more tense moments (if not the most) of the crisis that occurs in Rossellini’s work. Cinema here is not only far from truth, but also an obstacle to knowledge. As said before, for Rossellini knowledge is always involved in a process in which it is constantly confronted and modified by the consequences of the encounter between human action and appearances. Therefore, appearances’ most important characteristic is change, because change forces the ever-learning person to the searching process that could allow him/her to reach the limits of knowledge. In an environment which doesn’t change, human knowledge would never be confronted because the information received from the community would not need to be processed any further. In Illibatezza, the trouble with the cinema is not that it may give wrong or distorted images (i.e. pieces of information) – this isn’t a major problem because distinguishing right from wrong information is part of the process of knowledge. When Joe faces the transformed Ana Maria, instead of advancing in knowledge he looks for shelter in the old, never-changing Ana Maria, who’s no more than a shadow, and this is the cinematic sin. Because of its hypnotic overwhelming power, cinematic information (which can be right or wrong) tends to be confused with an appearance, with a moment of genuine experience. As it is clear in Ana Maria and Joe’s attitudes to life, cinema threatens to replace the actual set of surrounding appearances with a set of never-changing images that would then disrupt the process of knowledge, therefore ruining the possibility for humans to access truth. Cinema can function as Louis XIV etiquette – as a new set of conventional appearances allowing ‘someone’ to control and dominate a community’s perception of environment, knowledge and action. In 1962, film theaters became, for Rossellini, the new Versailles.
The historical telefilms (and the last two biographical features) try to avoid this sin, ‘sincerely’ presenting themselves as information, working on the basis of the knowledge of their time and community. When it comes to Socrate, for instance, the film doesn’t account for the historical reality or the philosopher’s thought. What we are seeing is Socrates’ place in a particular culture. This is why Socrates is ‘straightened’ in the film, because he has to be presented as a major intellectual and moral figure, and for Rossellini, homosexuality doesn’t fit in with this (since, as we’ve seen in his work, not-straight is always morally wrong).
It is from the solid connection he established between knowledge and ethics, as discussed above, that Rossellini changed cinema forever. Being a human action – a point that already appears, as we’ve seen, in his second feature – any movie has to be considered a piece of information having a precise impact on knowledge, thus having ethical implications. If we cannot talk about Rossellini in purely ‘formal’ terms it’s because his work itself forbids us to do such a thing. ‘Modern film’ is something completely different from a modernist piece of work in any other art, where the key is, precisely, its separation from the human world. Modern film appears as a problem of values, not as a problem of the opacity of its language.
This perspective, based on the assumption of the transparency of images (it is not coincidental that Rossellini had better luck with French criticism influenced by Bazin than with Marxist criticism), is one of the first major insights into cinema (inside cinema), and as such it surely deserves an important place in our critical speech. Nevertheless, accepting it as a revealed truth – something the critic has done for too long – presupposes the acceptance of the huge amount of ethnocentric conceptions it produces (only a few of them studied above).
Training years (all short films):
Prélude à l’Après-midi d’un faune (1936)
Some sources say this film was censored, but it is more likely unfinished.
Fantasia Sottomarina (1938-39)
Il tacchino prepotente (1939)
Cinematography by Mario Bava. Film not known to have survived.
La vispa Teresa (1939)
Cinematography by Mario Bava. Film not known to have survived.
Il ruscello di Ripasottille (1941)
La nave bianca (The White Ship) (1941)
Producers: Scalera Film & Centro Cinematografico del Ministero della Marina
Screenplay: Roberto Rossellini and Francesco De Robertis
Un piloto ritorna (A Pilot Returns) (1942)
Tito Silvio Mursino (Vittorio Mussolini, Benito’s son) is credited for “stories and supervision”. Michelangelo Antonioni is credited, among others, for the screenplay.
L’uomo della crocce (The Man with the Cross) (1943)
Desiderio (Desire) (1943/1946)
Rossellini left this unfinished. It was completed by Marcello Pagliero three years later. Although it was produced during the fascist period, this film was not intended as fascist propaganda. It was a ‘realist’ melodrama, very similar to Visconti’s Ossessione (1942). It was written by Giuseppe De Santis, who had worked with Visconti in Ossessione and later became a director himself with Riso amaro (1949).
Roma, città aperta (Rome, Open City) (1945)
Script by Federico Fellini.
Paisà (Paisan) (1946)
Script by Federico Fellini (also assistant director).
Germania, anno zero (Germany Year Zero, Deutschland im Jahre Null) (1947)
Two-part film, both segments directed by Rossellini. First part: adaptation of Jean Cocteau’s monologue La voix humaine. Second episode, Il miracolo (The Miracle), from a script written by Federico Fellini and Tullio Pinelli.
La macchina ammazzacattivi (The Machine that Kills Bad People ) (1948)
Released in 1952. Based on a play by Edoardo De Filippo, this film has been neglected. It is an absurdist comedy and, in my opinion, minor in Rossellini’s filmography.
Stromboli (Stromboli, terra di Dio) (1949)
Co-produced by Berit (Bergman – Rossellini – Italy) Film and RKO. Starring Ingrid Bergman.
Francesco, giullare di Dio (The Flowers of St. Francis) (1950)
L’invidia (Envy) (1951)
21′ episode in The Seven Deadly Sins (Les Sept péchés capitaux, 1951).
Other episodes directed by Yves Allégret, Claude Autant-Lara, Carlo-Rim, Jean Devrille, Eduardo De Filippo and Georges Lacombe.
Santa Brigida (1951)
Unfinished documentary commissioned by the Swedish Red Cross about the Santa Brígida Swedish Sisters Convent in Rome. 10′ of 35 mm footage are at the Svenska Filmminstitutet.
Europa 51 (The Greatest Love) (1952)
Starring Ingrid Bergman.
Dov’è la libertà.? (Where is Freedom?) (1952)
Comedy comissioned by the producers (Carlo Ponti, Dino De Laurentiis and Giovanni Amati [for Golden Films]), with the popular Italian star Toto. This film cannot be considered part of the Modern Film period.
Ingrid Bergman (1953)
17′ episode in We, the Women (Siamo Donne, 1953), starring the wonderful Ingrid Bergman herself. Other episodes directed by Alfredo Guarini, Gianni Franciolini, Luigi Zampa and Luchino Visconti.
Viaggio in Italia (Voyage to Italy) (1953)
Starring Ingrid Bergman and George Sanders.
Napoli 43 (1954)
14′ episode in Amori di mezzo secolo (1954)
Other episodes directed by Glauco Pellegrini, Pietro Germi, Mario Chiari and Antonio Pietrangeli.
Giovanna d’arco al rogo (Joan of Arc at the Stake) (1954)
Adapted from Rossellini’s own stage production of the Oratory Jeanne au bûcher by Arthur Honegger (text by Paul Claudel). Starring Ingrid Bergman.
La paura (Fear or Non credo più all’amore or Angst) (1954)
Last Rossellini film starring Ingrid Bergman.
Le Psychodrama (1956)
Television documentary on 16 mm. Rossellini shot almost 30 minutes worth but the footage never got edited.
L’India vista da Rossellini (J’ai fait un beau voyage) (1957-1958)
Ten television episodes in 16 mm. Total: 251′.
India, Matri Buhmi (1958)
90′, 35 mm feature.
Il generale della rovere (1959)
Era notte a Roma (Escape by Night or Les Évadés de la nuit) (1960)
Viva l’Italia! (1960)
Vanina Vanini (1961)
Adaptation from the homonymous tale in Stendhal’s Chroniques italiennes.
Torino nei cent’anni (1961)
45′ television show shot in 16 mm
Torino tra due secoli (1961)
11′ film released as part of Italia 61.
Anima nera (1962)
Illibatezza (Chastity) (1962)
15′ episode in RoGoPaG: Laviamoci il cervello (aka Let’s Have a Brainwash) (1962).The other episodes are directed by Jean-Luc Godard, Pier Paolo Pasolini and Ugo Gregoretti.
L’età del ferro (1964)
Five television episodes. Total: 266′.
La Prise du pouvoir par Louis XIV (The Rise of Louis XIV) (1966)
Idea di un’isola (1967)
52′ television documentary on Sicilia.
La lotta dell’uomo per la sua sopravvivenza (1967-1969)
Twelve 60′ television episodes.
Atti degli apostoli (Acts of the Apostles) (1968)
Five television episodes. Total: 341′.
Socrate (Socrates) (1970)
La forza e la ragione: Intervista a Salvador Allende (1971)
36′ interview in 16mm with Salvador Allende, the socialist politician who had became President of Chile at that time. Two years after the interview, Allende was overthrow and murdered by the general Augusto Pinochet, in a coup d’état which involved active C.I.A. collaboration.
Blaise Pascal (1971)
Agostino d’Ippona (Augustine of Hippo) (1972)
L’età di cosimo de Medici (The Age of the Medici) (1972)
Rice University 1973 (1973)
In 1971, the Houston Rice University (Texas) invited Rossellini to help establish a Media Center. Rossellini’s work at the University culminated in this documentary (in two 50′ parts).
The World Population (A Question of People) (1974)
Two hour documentary for UNESCO.
Anno uno (aka Italy: Year One or Year One) (1974)
Rossellini’s return to feature-length narrative cinema after 12 years.
Il messia (The Messiah) (1975)
Roberto Rossellini’s last feature film.
Concerto per Michelangelo (1977)
42′ documentary on a choral concert in the Sistine Chapel.
Beaubourg, Centre d’art et de culture Georges Pompidou (1977)
56′ documentary commissioned by and about the Pompidou Center (Paris).
Cinematography by Néstor Almendros.
Aristarco, Guido, Novela y antinovela. El cine italiano después del neorrealismo. Buenos Aires, Editorial Jorge Alvarez, 1966.
Baldelli, Pio, Roberto Rossellini, La nuova sinistra. Rome, Ediciones Samonà e Savelli, 1972.
Bazin, André, Qu’est-ce que le cinéma? Paris, Editions du Cerf, 1962.
Bergala, Alain (ed)., Le cinéma révélé. Paris, Editions de l’Etoile, 1984.
Bergala, Alain et Narboni, Jean (eds.), Roberto Rossellini. Paris, Editions de l’Étoile/Cahiers du cinéma, 1990.
Brunette, Peter, Roberto Rossellini. New York, Oxford University Press, 1987.
Guarner, José Luis, Roberto Rossellini. Barcelona, Editorial Fundamentos, 1985.
Oms, Marcel, “Rossellini du fascisme à la démocratie chrétienne”. Positif, nº28, April 1958.
Rivette, Jacques, “Lettre sur Rossellini”. Cahiers du cinéma, nº 46, April 1955.
Rossellini, Roberto, Un esprit libre ne doit rien apprendre en esclave. Paris, Fayard, 1977.
Serceau, Michel, Roberto Rossellini. Paris, Editions du Cerf, 1986.
Zavattini, Cesare, “Tesis sobre el neorrealismo” in Romaguera I Ramio et al. (eds), Fuentes y documentos del cine. Barcelona, Editorial Gustavo Gili, 1980.
Articles in Senses of Cinema
Stromboli by John Flaus
Making Reality by Tag Gallagher
Compiled by Michelle Carey
Roberto Rossellini and his Italian Cinema
A very user-friendly text to read. With a chapter per page, this essay by Karen Arnone charts Rossellini’s place within post-war Italian cinema and is an excellent introduction to his work.
Strictly Film School’s entry features small essays on Rome: Open City, Germany, Year Zero and Voyage to Italy.
The Films of Roberto Rossellini
Features analyses of Stromboli, Rome: Open City and Socrates.
Good overview of the man’s life and career.
Nice Italian page, with some lovely stills and links to information on his major works.
Information on this book edited by David Forgacs, Sarah Lutton and Geoffrey Nowell-Smith.
Magician of the Real
Sample text from the Forgacs, Lutton and Nowell-Smith book.
The Adventures of Roberto Rossellini
Information on Tag Gallagher’s book.
Always a Window: Tag Gallagher’s Rossellini
Insightful essay by Adrian Martin on this book.
Rossellini – Filmografías Monteuve
Spanish page with filmography.
Italian page with stills and thoughts by Rossellini on his three “war films”.
Filmography with reproductions of original cinema posters.
Il Neorealismo di Roberto Rossellini
Essay in Italian by Marcello Gagliani Caputo.
Nice site, in Italian. Features a biography, filmography and some great stills.
Another great site in Italian.
Tocce on Bondanella
Vincent Tocce’s review of Peter Bondanella’s book, The Films of Roberto Rossellini.
Arte e Cultura a Roma: Roberto Rossellini: frammenti e battute
Information (in Italian) on this documentary by Carlo Lizzani.
On Giovanna d’Arco al rogo (1955)
Gallagher’s wonderful essay on Rossellini’s tale of Joan of Arc.
Lecture notes to accompany screening, by Art Sandler.
Roberto Rossellini: The Rise to Power of Louis XIV
Derek Malcolm’s article in appreciation of this film.
Review by Fred Camper.
Essay in Italian.
Brief analysis of this film.
Italian Films by Roberto Rossellini on video from The New York Film Annex
Good resource to find Rossellini on NTSC video.
Click here to search for Roberto Rossellini DVDs, videos and books at
- The three-article series is reproduced in Bergala, 1984.
- A myth applied to films produced anywhere except Hollywood, where truth never occurs in any form.
- Compiled in Bazin, 1962.
- Guarner, 1985.
- Here, of course, is the same assumption that Rossellini makes – i.e. that Socrates’ thought is present in Plato’s dialogues. Actually, what Socrates really thought and taught is thoroughly debated in Ancient Philosophy departments (that Rossellini didn’t ignore).