World War 2 was a long time ago, and I set out on this film without much enthusiasm. Who has heard of the Italian Resistance to a Nazi Occupation? Historical complexities apart, this not so easily watchable film which drags laboriously for the first hour builds up to an unforgettable and powerful human drama.
Rome is occupied and the populace responds in different ways to the continuing traumas. Manfredi is a Communist and leads a section of the resistance movement. A priest acts as an intermediary conveying messages. Manfredi and the priest are finally captured and finally tortured and shot respectively without breaking. The film realistically depicts the inherent spiritual flame capable of inspiring many others. Extremes of adversity bring out the best and worst, both courage and cowardice. The movie was made immediately after the liberation of Rome and is an impassioned statement of the eternal brutality of war made in the heat of the moment. It has a documentary feel and texture. It is truthful and the voice of a people.
The film probably needs a second watch to appreciate the realistic details of the place and time which have been captured so well in the bleak black and white cinematography. The iconic still above shows the female lead Pina (played by the charismatic Anna Magnini) just before she is shot while running towards her just arrested fiance.
Bosley Crowther's Review