Germany, Year Zero

Germania anno zero

Roberto Rossellini, Italy, 1948


We follow Edmund as he walks around the ruins of Berlin immediately after the war (the film was filmed in 1947). Frequent wide shots indicate the extent of the city’s destruction, wherein the character seems lost. However, the film-maker is not only interested in this level of reality, filming in natural settings that he chooses to share with us. It is also through Edmund’s reality, wandering about through progressively closer shots, we enter in to subjectivity and then another reality is unveiled: Edmund’s despair (he has committed an irreversible act, following perverse advice from his old teacher) as he finds himself all alone in both a devastated city and society. Although the seeds of fiction seem to be able to give a psychological explanation to this impenetrable sadness (playing children reject him), it is through eye line mismatches that we literally experience his despair: shots of the church and the priest – vain, failing figures that Edmund intentionally turns his back on, adults buckled down to their task of reconstruction who don’t pay him any attention, abandoning him to his fate. If the music adds drama to the situation, the actor and character’s mechanical moves, his erratic rhythmic walk paced by his steps, lift us off, forcing us to face reality, upsetting us, beyond explanation and making us realise the reality of a child abandoned by all figures of authority, alone, in a world in ruins as his only inheritance.