Germania anno zero (1948)
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- Germany Year Zero
- 78 min.
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Finally, those who would reject those artists of "realist" art are denying some of the best of what film, art, and human expression in general can offer to the world. For it is in such art that some of the greatest expressions of compassion and understanding of the human condition are to be found. Such art is one of the highest forms of human expression, for it reminds us of mankind's duty to help those in need. In the best cases (as with this film), it shakes us out of our apathy, it forces us to confront what we would otherwise choose to ignore.
No, simply watching a film does not fix the world - but it can lead to great things, for the feelings that it instills in you can, and have (in my case, and in the case of others I know) inspire us to create change, to help those around us. They (without glorifying or reveling in poverty or violence or other evils) show us the very human nature of those who have been shut out by society.
Those like aneic would like to deny art's ability to affect people, and to create hope (not the artificial, false hope of a "Slumdog Millionaire" or "Life Is Beautiful," but a more lasting and real hope of a brighter future) - by shining a light in some of the darkest places of our society, they help guide us toward something better.
Sorry for the essay, but the sentiments expressed in aneic's post are incredibly misguided, and I felt the need to correct them.
But I can understand your motivation, Aneic. You desperately want what you said to be true, because then you can avoid responsibility for failing to confront the reality you have been presented with ("Well, the filmmakers are, uh, enjoying it and stuff.") Unfortunately for you, the aforementioned films of Scorsese and Rossellini and de Sica are far more honest in their depictions and motivations than truly self-serving and dishonest films like "Life Is Beautiful" and "Slumdog Millionaire." Any strong "uplift" in films such as "Berlin Year Zero" or "Bicycle Thieves" would have been hugely damaging to the films' integrity. That is to say, the so-called "hysterics" and "sullenness" of this film are more than well-earned (anything else than a "sullen" tone would have been a very bad choice,) considering the nature of the story.
That's certainly not to suggest that all "depressing" films are inherently more honest than uplifting ones, but a "realist" style does not, in fact, come with the baggage that you would assign it. The choice to focus on such subject matter is not dishonest or hypocritical, as ones interest in a given subject does not have to be motivated by pleasure derived from that subject, but may just as well be motivated by genuine human interest and compassion. Yes, there are other great films that are much happier, even joyous (see: "Singin' in the Rain," "Kiki's Delivery Service," etc.) but it is necessary that some great filmmakers choose to focus on subjects that would fall outside of your range of interest (besides the fact that Rossellini and de Sica have proven themselves more than capable of making far less "sullen" films - see "Miracle in Milan" for one great example.)
Aneic - What an absolutely nonsensical "theory"! You would have it that those who depict the "irredeemables" and/or those left behind in the backwash and squalor of society (as with characters in everything from this to "Raging Bull" to "Lilya 4ever" to "Bicycle Thieves") would "soften" their portrayal so we would have it easier. Never mind that there's nothing to support that the filmmakers are "intoxicated with the misery" - you just don't want film to expose you to these things that you would rather ignore. You then project your own inadequacies onto the artist ("I don't like it, so they must be getting some sadistic pleasure out of it!")
Fortunately, there are people more courageous than you, ones who are willing to take us to places and show us people (people who do, in fact, exist) with little hope - people who are living lives of (often) quiet desperation.
These filmmakers (and other individuals who depict those otherwise ignored by society) are doing an essential service for society, and are forcing us to stare into an abyss that we can't afford to ignore. In the process, they also offer the tiniest bit of hope - by depicting such lives with compassion and empathy they ask us to look within ourselves, and to help minimize such suffering in the future, as best we can.
In short: Rossellini was a filmmaker of extraordinary compassion and empathy - the fact that you think that he was somehow "getting off" on the misery being depicted says a lot more about you than it does about the artist.
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In 8 official lists
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This movie ranks #3 in Locarno Film Festival - Golden Leopard
This movie ranks #78 in The 100 Most Significant German Films
This movie ranks #95 in Il Grande Cinema Italiano
This movie ranks #191 in Sight and Sound 2012 - Combined List
This movie ranks #237 in They Shoot Pictures, Don't They?
This movie ranks #260 in Jonathan Rosenbaum's Essential Films
This movie ranks #359 in Have You Seen? A Personal Introduction to 1,000 Films
This movie ranks #554 in The Criterion Collection