Those post-war periods in each country, Allied, Axis and even neutral, were difficult for a variety of reasons. That sudden burst of peace felt around these countries in the wake of such fallout, catastrophe and devastation, was a relief to many. But for others, it provided a new difficulty to overcome. While there may have been no more fighting on the fronts, the beaches or the air, there were those looking to survive and adapt to the sacrifices and losses they had made along the way. Germany Year Zero, the final piece of the War Trilogy from director Roberto Rossellini, dictates its devastation with an understanding for the time around it.
In an Allied-occupied zone of Berlin, we are presented Edmund (Edmund Moeschke) and his youthful spirit. His innocence in the face of a fight that cost millions of lives is the bright spark that shines throughout Germany Year Zero. He is not without his plight, but much of the burden is on the back of the older generation, who are acclimatising not just to the loss of loved ones and their usual way of life, but their rehabilitation into a peaceful world. We see them queued up outside for rations, tucked away in hovels that are torn apart by war. It is a sight to behold, one that cuts through much of the soppy romanticism of war filmmaking. This is the raw deal; black and white cinematography brings that bleak outlook to the surface with a necessary desire to showcase that not all
But there is the leading issue with Rossellini’s final piece of this trilogy. He tries so desperately to make us feel, whether it is guilt or sympathy, that he forgets at times to include variety and passion. He is so pained by the events of the war, and while Germany Year Zero is a formidable attempt at capturing that, it feels as though he is attempting to spoon-feed his audience. What he wants to showcase and what Rossellini is trying to say feels strained and indifferent. Beyond the interest in technical merits, the shot composition lingering on the faces of childhood innocence and the comparisons made by the strained, wrinkled eyes of those that have walked through hell, there is little to be found.
Germany Year Zero is rather humanizing, as we are rarely shown the other side of war. To the victors go the spoils, and the movie rights. Pain and agony were felt all around, and Germany Year Zero is a stern reminder that not everyone was on the side of their country. Rossellini is plain at times, his writing turns into lists and recitals of what the people have run out of, and what they hunger for. But Moeschke and the characters found within this short pocket of warfare contemplation give way to a stronger message that few films after would capture. Brutal yet defiant, Rossellini manages to portray a hopeful yet anguished future for the inhabitants of his feature.