Roberto Rossellini - Director

Nationality: Italian. Born: Rome, 8 May 1906. Family: Married
1) Marcella de Marquis (marriage annulled), two children; 2) actress Ingrid Bergman, 1950 (divorced), three children, including actress Isabella; 3) screenwriter Somali Das Gupta (divorced), one son. Career: Worked on films, in dubbing and sound effects, then as

Roberto Rossellini
Roberto Rossellini
editor, from 1934; directed first feature, La nave bianca , 1940; technical director in official film industry, while simultaneously shooting documentary footage of Italian resistance fighters, 1940–45; accepted offer from Howard Hughes to make films for RKO with Ingrid Bergman in Hollywood, 1946; apparently fell out of public favour over scandal surrounding relationships with Bergman and later Das Gupta; television director of documentaries, 1960s. Died: 4 June 1977, in Rome, Italy, of heart attack.

Films as Director:


Daphne (+ sc)


Prelude Ă  l'apres-midi d'une faune (+ sc)


Fantasia sottomarina (+ sc); Il tacchino prepotente (+ sc); La vispa Teresa (+ sc)


Il Ruscello di Ripasottile (+ sc); La nave bianca (+ co-sc)


Un pilota ritorna (+ co-sc); I tre aquilotta (uncredited collaboration)


L'uomo della croce (+ co-sc); L'invasore (+ supervised production, sc); Desiderio (+ co-sc) (confiscated by police and finished by Marcello Pagliero in 1946)


Roma, cittĂ  aperta ( Rome, Open City ) (+ co-sc)


PaisĂ  ( Paisan ) (+ co-sc, pr)


Germania, anno zero ( Germany, Year Zero ) (+ co-sc) L'amore ( Woman, Ways of Love ) (+ sc); Il miracolo ( The Miracle ) (+ co-sc); La macchina ammazzacattivi (+ co-sc, pr); Stromboli, terra di dio ( Stromboli ) (+ co-sc, pr)


Francesco—giullare di Dio ( Flowers of St. Francis ) (+ co-sc)


"L'Invidia" episode of I sette peccati capitali ( The Seven Deadly Sins ) (+ co-sc); Europa '51 ( The Greatest Love ) (+ co-sc)


Dov'è la libertà (+ co-sc); Viaggio in Italia ( Voyage to Italy, Strangers ); The Lonely Woman (+ co-sc); "Ingrid Bergman" episode of Siamo donne


"Napoli '43" episode of Amori di mezzo secolo (+ sc); Giovanna d'Arco al rogo ( Joan of Arc at the Stake ) (+ sc); Die Angst ( Le Paura ; Fear ); Orient Express (+ sc, production supervision)


L'India vista da Rossellini (ten episodes) (+ sc, pr); India (+ co-sc)


Il Generale della Rovere (+ co-sc)


Era notte a Roma (+ co-sc); Viva l'Italia (+ co-sc)


Vanina Vanini ( The Betrayer ) (+ co-sc); Torino nei centi'anni ; Benito Mussolini ( Blood on the Balcony ) (+ sc, production supervision)


Anima nera (+ sc); "Illibatezza" episode of Rogopag (+ sc)


La Prise de pouvoir par Louis XIV ( The Rise of Louis XIV )


Idea di un'isola (+ pr, sc)


Atti degli apostoli (co-d, co-sc, ed)


Socrate ( Socrates ) (+ co-sc, ed)


Agostino di Ippona


Blaise Pascal ; Anno uno


Il Messia ( The Messiah ) (+ co-sc)

Other Films:


Luciano Serra, pilota (sc)


Le carabiniere (co-sc)


L'eta del ferro (sc, pr)


La lotta dell'uomo per la sua sopravvivenza (sc, pr)



Era notte a Roma , with others, Bologna, 1961.

Le Cinéma révélé , edited by Alain Bergala, Paris, 1984.

Il mio metodo: Scritti e intervisti , edited by Adriano Apra, Venice, 1987.

Quasi un autobiografie , Milan, 1987.

By ROSSELLINI: articles—

" PaisĂ  : Sixth Sketch," with others, in Bianco e Nero (Rome), October 1947.

Interview with Francis Koval, in Sight and Sound (London), February 1951.

"Coloquio sul neo-realismo," with Mario Verdone, in Bianco e Nero (Rome), February 1952.

Interview with Maurice Schèrer and François Truffaut, in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), July 1954.

"Dix ans de cinéma," in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), August/September and November 1955, and January 1956.

"Cinema and Television: Interview," with André Bazin, in Sight and Sound (London), Winter 1958/59.

"Censure et culture," in Cinéma (Paris), October 1961.

"Conversazione sulla cultura e sul cinema," in Filmcritica (Rome), March 1963.

"Intervista con Roberto Rossellini," with Adriano Aprá and Maurizio Ponzi, in Filmcritica (Rome), April/May 1965.

Interview with Jean Collet and Claude-Jean Philippe, in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), September 1966.

"Conversazione con Roberto Rossellini," with Michele Mancin, Renato Tomasino, and Lello Maiello, in Filmcritica (Rome), August 1968.

"La decisione di Isa," in Bianco e Nero (Rome), January/March 1985.

"Rossellini a neorealizmusrol," an interview with M. Verdone, in Filmkultura (Budapest), vol. 26, no. 1, 1990.


Hovald, Patrice, Roberto Rossellini , Paris, 1958.

Steele, Joseph Henry, Ingrid Bergman: An Intimate Portrait , New York, 1959.

Mida, Massimo, Roberto Rossellini , Parma, 1961.

Verdone, Mario, Roberto Rossellini , Paris, 1963.

Guarner, José Luis, Roberto Rossellini , translated by Elizabeth Cameron, New York, 1970.

Baldelli, Pio, Roberto Rossellini , Rome, 1972.

Menon, Gianni, Dibattio su Rossellini , Rome, 1972.

Rondolino, Gianni, Roberto Rossellini , Florence, 1974.

Ranvaud, Don, Roberto Rossellini , London, 1981.

Cahiers du Cinéma 1, The 1950s: Neo-Realism, Hollywood, New Wave , edited by Jim Hillier, London, 1985.

Serceau, Michel, Roberto Rossellini , Paris, 1986.

AprĂ , Adriano, Rosselliniana , Rome, 1987.

Brunette, Peter, Roberto Rossellini , Oxford, 1987.

Gansera, Rainer, and others, Roberto Rossellini , Munich, 1987.

Rossi, Patrizio, Roberto Rossellini: A Guide to References and Resources , Boston, 1988.

Bergala, Alain, and Jean Narboni, editors, Roberto Rossellini , Paris, 1990.

Bondanella, Peter, The Films of Roberto Rossellini (Cambridge Film Classics) , New York, 1993.

Gallagher, Tag, The Adventures of Roberto Rossellini , New York, 1998.

On ROSSELLINI: articles—

Venturi, Lauro, "Roberto Rossellini," in Hollywood Quarterly , Fall 1949.

Harcourt-Smith, Simon, "The Stature of Rossellini," in Sight and Sound (London), April 1950.

Truffaut, François, "Rossellini," in Arts (Paris), January 1955.

Rivette, Jacques, "Lettre sur Rossellini," in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), May 1955.

Fieschi, Jean-André, "Dov'e Rossellini?," in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), May 1962.

Sarris, Andrew, "Rossellini Rediscovered," in Film Culture (New York), no. 32, 1964.

Casty, Alan, "The Achievement of Roberto Rossellini," in Film Comment (New York), Fall 1964.

Aprà, Adriano, "Le nouvel âge de Rossellini," in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), August 1965.

" Roma, città aperta Issue" of Avant-Scène du Cinéma (Paris), 1971.

MacBean, J.R., "Rossellini's Materialist Mise-en-Scene," in Film Quarterly (Berkeley), Winter 1971/72.

"Rossellini Issue" of Screen (London), Winter 1973/74.

Norman, L., "Rossellini's Case Histories for Moral Education," in Film Quarterly (Berkeley), Summer 1974.

Wood, Robin, "Rossellini," in Film Comment (New York), July/August 1974.

"Rossellini Issue" of Filmcritica (Rome), May/June 1976.

Walsh, M., " Rome, Open City; The Rise to Power of Louis XIV: Reevaluating Rossellini," in Jump Cut (Chicago), no. 15, 1977.

Hughes, J., "In Memoriam: Roberto Rossellini," in Film Comment (New York), July/August 1977.

Lawton, H., "Rossellini's Didactic Cinema," in Sight and Sound (London), Autumn 1978.

Ranvaud, Don, "Documentary and Dullness: Rossellini according to the British Critic," in Monthly Film Bulletin (London), February 1981.

Brunette, Peter, "Rossellini and Cinematic Realism," in Cinema Journal (Champaign, Illinois), Fall 1985.

" Viaggio in Italia Issue" of Avant-Scéne du Cinéma (Paris), June 1987.

Tournès, A., "Rossellini: Le courage d'être humblement un homme," in Jeune Cinéma (Paris), January/February 1988.

Gallagher, Tag, "Rossellini, Neo-Realism, and Croce," in Film History (Philadelphia), vol. 2, no. 1, 1988.

Truffaut, François, and others, "Roberto Rossellini," in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), July/August 1988.

Douchet, J., "Rossellini ou l'évidence," in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), January 1990.

Nascimbene, Mario, "Il mio lavoro con Roberto Rossellini," in Cinema Nuovo (Bari), July-October 1991.

Wagstaff, Chris, "True Stories," in Sight and Sound (London), August 1993.

Aristarco, Guido, "Bazin, Rossellini, les néoréalismes et moi," in Cinémaction (Courbevoie), January 1994.

Serceau, Michel, "La ville dans le néoréalisme," in Cinémaction (Courbevoie), April 1995.

Marocco, P., "Secondo Internet," in Filmcritica (Siena), January/February 1997.

Meder, T., "The Historiographer of the '40s," in Blimp (Graz), no. 37, 1997.

Gallagher, Tag, "Neorealism?: Roberto Rossellini och teorierna om neorealismen," in Filmhäftet (Stockholm), vol. 26, no. 101, 1998.

* * *

Roberto Rossellini has been so closely identified with the rise of the postwar Italian style of filmmaking known as neorealism that it would be a simple matter to neatly pigeonhole him as merely a practitioner of that technique and nothing more. So influential has that movement been that the achievement embodied in just three of his films— Roma, città aperta; Paisà; and Germania, anno zero —would be enough to secure the director a major place in film history. To label Rossellini simply a neorealist, however, is to drastically undervalue his contribution to the thematic aspects of his art.

At its most basic level, Rossellini's dominant concern appears to be a preoccupation with the importance of the individual within various aspects of the social context that emerged from the ashes of World War II. In his early films, which a number of historians have simplistically termed fascist, his concern for the individual was not balanced by an awareness of their social context. Thus, a film like his first feature, La nave bianca , while it portrays its sailors and hospital personnel as sensitive and caring, ignores their ideological and political milieu. It is Roma, cittĂ  aperta , despite its carry-over of the director's penchant for melodrama, that is properly considered Rossellini's "rite of passage" into the midst of the complex social issues confronting the individual in postwar Europe. The crude conditions under which it was shot, its authentic appearance, and certain other naturalistic touches lent it an air of newsreel-like veracity, but its raw power was derived almost entirely from the individuals that Rossellini placed within this atmospheric context. With the exception of Anna Magnani and Aldo Fabrizi, the cast was made up of non-professionals who were so convincing that the effect upon viewers was electric. Many were certain that what they were viewing must have been filmed as it was actually occurring.

Despite legends about how Rossellini's neorealistic style arose as a result of the scarcity of resources and adverse shooting conditions that were present immediately after the war, the director had undoubtedly begun to conceive the style as early as his aborted Desiderio of 1943, a small-scale forerunner of neorealism which Rossellini dropped in mid-shooting. Certainly, he continued the style in PaisĂ  and Germania anno zero , the remaining parts of his war trilogy. In both of these features, he delineates the debilitating effects of war's aftermath on the psyche of modern man. The latter film was a particularly powerful statement on the effect of Nazi ideology on the mind of a young boy, in part because it simultaneously criticizes the failure of traditional social institutions like the church to counter fascism's corrupting influence.

The Rossellini films of the 1950s shed many of the director's neorealistic trappings. In doing so he shifted his emphasis somewhat to the spiritual aspects of man, revealing the instability of life and of human relationships. Stromboli, Europa '51, Voyage to Italy , and La paura reflect a quest for a transcendent truth akin to the secular saintliness achieved by the priest in Open City. In the 1950s films, however, his style floated unobtrusively between involvement and contemplation.

This is particularly obvious in his films with Ingrid Bergman, but is best exemplified by Voyage to Italy with its leisurely paced questioning of the very meaning of life. Every character in the film is ultimately in search of his soul. What little action there is has relatively little importance since most of the character development is an outgrowth of spiritual aspirations rather than a reaction to events. In this sense, its structure resembled the kind of neorealism practiced by De Sica in Umberto D (without the excessively emotional overtones) and yet reaffirms Rossellini's concern for his fellow men and for Italy. At the same time, through his restriction of incident, he shapes the viewer's empathy for his characters by allowing the viewer to participate in the film only to the extent of being companion to the various characters. The audience is intellectually free to wander away from the story, which it undoubtedly does, only to find its involvement in the character's spiritual development unchanged since its sympathy is not based upon the physical actions of a plot.

Such an intertwining of empathetic involvement of sorts with a contemplative detachment carried over into Rossellini's historical films of the 1960s and 1970s. His deliberately obtrusive use of zoom lenses created in the viewer of such films as Viva l'Italia and Agostino di Ippona a delicate distancing and a constant but subtle awareness that the director's point of view was inescapable. Such managing of the viewer's consciousness of the historical medium turns his characters into identifiable human beings who, though involving our senses and our emotions, can still be scrutinized from a relatively detached vantage point.

This, then, is the seeming contradiction central to Rossellini's entire body of work. As most precisely exemplified in his early, pure neorealistic films, his camera is relentlessly fixed on the physical aspects of the world around us. Yet, as defined by his later works, which both retain and modify much of this temporal focus, the director is also trying to capture within the same lens an unseen and spiritual landscape. Thus, the one constant within all of his films must inevitably remain his concern for fundamental human values and aspirations, whether they are viewed with the anger and immediacy of a Roma, cittĂ  aperta or the detachment of a Viaggio in Italia.

—Stephen L. Hanson

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