Rossellini, Roberto

(1906-1977)
   Director and screenwriter. Universally acknowledged as the father of Italian neorealism, Rossellini was born into a wealthy family and a privileged environment. His father was a successful builder-architect with a love of music and a published writer, and the family home was a place of encounter for many local artists and intellectuals. Among the many buildings that Rossellini's father built in Rome was the Corso cinema and it was here that the young Roberto, thanks to a permanent pass provided by his father, was able to watch a multitude of films and to develop a particular love of American cinema.
   He had an easy upbringing, avoiding school and doing largely whatever he pleased, which included driving fast cars and chasing women. His extensive womanizing, in fact, led to an early marriage with actress Assia Noris, although the marriage was soon annulled. Rossellini would then marry Marcella De Marchis, with whom he would have two sons, but he would also carry on myriad affairs with, among others, Anna Magnani and Ingrid Bergman, who also bore him several children. But that was still to come.
   In the early 1930s, with much of the family fortune dissipated and confronted with the necessity of finding a job, Rossellini began to work in the film industry, first as a dubbing assistant and then as an uncredited script editor. His first attempts at filmmaking began in 1936 when he made the first of what would be a handful of short animated nature fantasies, two of which, Il tacchino prepotente (The Bullying Turkey, 1939) and La vispa Teresa (Lively Teresa, 1939), would be photographed by a young Mario Bava. At the same time Rossellini was able to work as fully accredited screenwriter and assistant to Goffredo Alessandrini on Luciano Serra pilota (Luciano Serra, Pilot, 1938), a heroic action melodrama nominally produced and supervised by Il Duce's son, Vittorio Mussolini.
   Two years later Rossellini was given his first chance to direct with La nave bianca (The White Ship, 1941), a film about an Italian hospital ship that he took over from navy commander turned film director Francesco De Robertis. The film, which used stock footage and nonprofessional actors, was highly praised and received a special jury prize, which allowed Rossellini to go on to make the other films that form part of what is commonly called his Fascist trilogy: Un pilota ritorna (A pilot returns, 1942), from a story written by Vittorio Mussolini and with Michelangelo Antonioni collaborating on the screenplay, and L'uomo dalla croce (The Man of the Cross, completed 1942 but released only in 1943), recounting the deeds of a heroic Italian military chaplain at the Russian front. These films, largely financed and made at the behest of the Italian military, would later be cited by hostile critics as proof of Rossellini's active support of the war and of Fascism, but a more dispassionate view might see them as generically humanist in tone rather than stridently nationalistic.
   Rossellini's first major triumph, however, and his elevation to the front ranks of international directors, came with Roma citta aperta (Rome Open City, also known as Open City, 1945), a film set during the recent German occupation of the city, recounting the heroism of both Resistance fighters and the ordinary Roman populace. The film's relatively rough and improvised style, dictated in part by circumstances, was hailed both at home and abroad as marking the birth of a radically new form of socially committed cinema that came to be labeled neorealism. Written by Sergio Amidei and Federico Fellini, the film was feted everywhere, winning the American Board of Review Award, the Grand Prize at the Cannes Festival, and a nomination for an Academy Award. Its remarkable success turned Rossellini into a celebrity overnight and allowed him to finance the other two films that comprise what is usually referred to as his neorealist trilogy: Paisa (Paisan, 1946) and Germania anno zero (Germany Year Zero, 1947), both portraying wartime situations with a very strong sense of realism.
   With the war now beginning to recede from memory, Rossellini began to focus more on an exploration of inner psychological conflict, beginning with the two episodes of L'amore (Ways of Love, 1948), both starring Anna Magnani, and continuing with a series of films made with Hollywood star Ingrid Bergman, who had chosen to join him in Italy (and whom he would soon marry): Stromboli, terra di Dio (Stromboli, 1950), Europa '51 (The Greatest Love, 1952), and Viaggio in Italia (Voyage to Italy, 1953). However, in spite of their strong realism and their undeniable dramatic power, the Bergman films were received very poorly by most Italian critics for what was seen as an emphasis on the individual and thus a deviation from the more socially oriented concerns of the earlier films. The films were, however, greatly appreciated in France, especially by the young critics who would later become the directors of the French New Wave, for whom Rossellini became something of a mentor. Following the lack of success of other films such as Dov'e la liberta? (Where Is Freedom? 1954) and La paura—Non credo piu all'amore (Fear, 1954), Rossellini and cinematographer Aldo Tonti spent almost two years in India gathering material for what would become a 10-episode documentary series for Italian television, as well as a quasi-documentary full feature for the big screen, India Matri Bhumi (India, 1959), which was enthusiastically acclaimed when shown at Cannes and raised Rossellini's stock at home, where the film was favorably compared with the work of Robert Flaherty. With his reputation slightly restored, Rossellini returned to the theme of the war and the Resistance with Il Generale della Rovere (General della Rovere, 1959) and Era notte a Roma (Escape by Night, 1960), before making Viva l'Italia (Garibaldi, 1961), a film that served to celebrate the centenary of Garibaldi's expedition to southern Italy and which effectively initiated that didactic exploration of the past that would soon become the distinguishing feature of his television productions. And indeed, following Vanina Vanini (The Betrayer, 1961), another historical costume drama set in the context of the Risorgimento, and Anima nera (Black Soul, 1961), a modest contribution to the commedia all'italiana, Rossellini turned his attention almost exclusively to television and, for the next decade and a half, attempted to use it as a didactic tool. La prise de pouvoir par Louis XIV (The Rise of Louis XIV, 1966), made originally for French television, is undoubtedly the most accomplished of the television films, but Rossellini continued his exploration of history with the encyclopedic La lotta dell'uomo per la sua sopravvivenza (Man's Struggle for Survival, made 1967-1969 and shown in twelve episodes, 1970-1971), Atti degli Apostoli (Acts of the Apostles, made 1968, screened in five episodes, 1969), Socrate (Socrates, 1970), Blaise Pascal (1971), Agostino d'Ippona (Augustine of Hippo, 1972), L'eta di Cosimo de' Medici (The Age of the Medici, 1973), and Cartesius (Descartes, 1973). He returned to the big screen in 1974 with Anno Uno (Year One, 1974), a film about Christian Democrat leader and long-serving Italian prime minister Alcide De Gasperi, but neither it nor Il Messia (The Messiah, 1975), Rossellini's attempt to present the life of Christ from a layman's perspective, found anything more than a cordial reception in an Italy that had changed radically since the days of Rome Open City. Unperturbed, Rossellini began preparing a film on Karl Marx. Titled Vivere per l'umanita (To Live for Humanity), it was apparently in an advanced stage of preparation when Rossellini died suddenly from a heart attack in 1977.
   Historical Dictionary of Italian Cinema by Alberto Mira

Guide to cinema. . 2011.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Rossellini, Roberto — • РОССЕЛЛИ НИ (Rossellini) Роберто (8.5.1906 3.6.1977)    итал. режиссёр. Учился в Высш. технич. школе. Первые ф. снимал как любитель ( Послеполуденный отдых фавна на музыку К. Дебюсси, и др.). Был сценаристом. Затем пост. ф., восхвалявшие воен.… …   Кино: Энциклопедический словарь

  • Rossellini, Roberto — (1906 1977)    Director and screenwriter. Universally acknowledged as the father of Italian neorealism, Rossellini was born into a wealthy family and a privileged environment. His father was a successful builder architect with a love of music and …   Historical dictionary of Italian cinema

  • Rossellini, Roberto — born May 8, 1906, Rome, Italy died June 3, 1977, Rome Italian film director. He directed his first feature film, White Ship, in 1941. During World War II he made Fascist propaganda films but also secretly filmed anti Fascist activities. He used… …   Universalium

  • Rossellini, Roberto — (1906–1977)    Regarded by many as Italy’s greatest film director, Rossellini made his international reputation with a depiction of the resistance to the Nazi occupation, Roma, citta aperta (Open City, 1945). Shot on location in war torn Rome,… …   Historical Dictionary of modern Italy

  • Rossellini, Roberto — ► (1906 77) Realizador cinematográfico italiano. Uno de los iniciadores del neorrealismo italiano. Películas: Roma, ciudad abierta (1944 46), Alemania, año cero (1948) y Europa 51 (1952), entre otras. * * * (8 may. 1906, Roma, Italia–3 jun. 1977 …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Rossellini,Roberto — Ros·sel·li·ni (rô sə lēʹnē, rŏs ə , rōsʹsĕ ), Roberto. 1906 1977. Italian filmmaker whose works, such as Rome, Open City (1945), employ fictional characters to depict historical events. * * * …   Universalium

  • Rossellini — Rossellini, Roberto …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Roberto Rossellini — et Ingrid Bergman en 1951. Données clés Naissance …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Roberto Rosselini — Roberto Rossellini Roberto Rossellini Naissance 8 mai 1906 Rome  Italie …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Rossellini — Roberto Rossellini Roberto Rossellini Naissance 8 mai 1906 Rome  Italie …   Wikipédia en Français

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