Germany Year Zero (1948) – Roberto Rossellini

The final chapter of Rossellini’s War Trilogy. Germany Year Zero takes place in Berlin in the months immediately after the war and has a Dickensian boy as it’s subject. The boy, along with his older sister, is sent scrounging money and food out in the streets to feed their infirmed father and fugitive brother, who in hiding because of his zealousness during the war. A former teacher, who is both a Nazi and an obvious pedophile spells out his worldview to the boy, one of survival and looking out for one’s self. This view is reinforced by what the boy sees around him and the dog-eat-dog dystopia Berlin has become where simple morals have been cast aside for the immediacy of physical needs. His father is besotted with grief that his condition is making the lives of his family miserable by being nothing but a mouth to feed and he wishes for death. Taking his professor’s words into account, he poisons his father.

War and fascism has stripped the young mind of even basic decency and he feels he’s doing his duty by committing patricide and only later realizes what he’s become or truly what life has made him. More than any other Rossellini film, Germany Year Zero is a ghost story disguised as neo-realism. It has more in common with Ugetsu than it does Paisan and the boy wonders the hellscape of post-war Germany barely existing himself like a specter. Haunting and devastating, this is the most pessimistic entry in the trilogy.

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