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Germany Year Zero
SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.33:1 Standard
  • Italian PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • Video introduction by Roberto Rossellini from 1963
  • The Italian release opening credits and voice-over prologue
  • Roberto Rossellini, a 2001 documentary by Carlos Lizzani, assistant director on Germany Year Zero, tracing Rosselliniís career through archival footage and interviews with family members and collaborators, with tributes by filmmakers FranÁois Truffaut and Martin Scorsese
  • Letters from the Front: Carlos Lizzani on ďGermany Year Zero,Ē a podium discussion with Lizzani from the 1987 Tutto Rossellini conference
  • New video interview with Rossellini scholar Adriano Aprŗ
  • Italian directors Paolo Taviani and Vittorio Taviani (Padre padrone) discussing the profound influence Rosselliniís films have had on them
  • Roberto and Roswitha, a new illustrated essay by film scholar Thomas Meder on Rosselliniís relationship with his mistress Roswitha Schmidt
  • A booklet featuring essays by James Quandt, Irene Bignardi, Colin MacCab

Germany Year Zero

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Roberto Rossellini
1948 | 71 Minutes | Licensor: Cinecitta

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $0.00 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #499
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Release Date: July 11, 2017
Review Date: July 20, 2017

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SYNOPSIS

The concluding chapter of Roberto Rosselliniís War Trilogy is the most devastating, a portrait of an obliterated Berlin, seen through the eyes of a twelve-year-old boy. Living in a bombed-out apartment building with his sick father and two older siblings, young Edmund is mostly left to wander unsupervised, getting ensnared in the black-market schemes of a group of teenagers and coming under the nefarious influence of a Nazi-sympathizing ex-teacher. Germany Year Zero (Deutschland im Jahre Null) is a daring, gut-wrenching look at the consequences of fascism, for society and the individual.


PICTURE

The Criterion Collection upgrades their DVD box set of Roberto Rosselliniís War Trilogy to Blu-ray. The third and final film in the set, Germany Year Zero, is presented on a dual-layer Blu-ray disc in the aspect ratio of 1.33:1, encoded at 1080p/24hz. The high-definition transfer was scanned from a 35mm fine-grain positive.

Iím at a complete loss with this title and really trying to work out in my head what happened here. All three films received restorations in 2013, and these restorations were used in BFIís own Blu-ray edition of the trilogy. Criterion has used (as far as I can see and figure) the new restorations for both Rome Open City and Paisan, but for Germany Year Zero theyíre inexplicably using the older high-definition master that was the basis for their previous DVD edition of the film, not the new restoration. At first I had to make sure I wasnít going crazy and double checked the BFI Germany Year Zero disc, because I figured it was possible I was misremembering that release and maybe that one also made use of an older master. But nope, thatís not the case. That disc opens with the notes about the new restoration and the film (in the 1.37:1 aspect ratio) looks really good, at least once you get past the opening. So obviously this new restoration exists, and it was even used by BFI.

So why would Criterion not use it? Rights issues? It would seem bizarre they would be able to get the new restorations for the other films but not this one, though I guess it is possible. But whatever the case itís frustrating because the film looks awful here, and the after strong presentations for the first two films the issues with this one are far more glaring.

The DVD had its issues for sure, though I still found it fine enough, and it was probably a step-up from Paisan in that set. But the film did look a bit rough and damage was still fairly prominent. Unfortunately, since weíre using that same old master here and not the new one (which, like the other films, had been extensively cleaned up) we get all of those same problems, from faint specs to steady scratches and tram lines and so on. I really donít think any further restoration work has been done. The image can also be a bit soft and out-of-focus, details lacking a lot of the time, but to be fair a lot of it looks to have to do mostly with the source.

Unfortunately the digital presentation is severely lacking and it also plays into that fuzziness. On DVD this aspect of the image looked fine, about what you would expect for the format, but here, now presented in full high-definition, the faults are far more obvious. Film grain is present but itís rendered rather poorly: it looks compressed and blocky, it rarely looks like natural grain, and since itís quite heavy it does lend a digital look to the image. Contrast also varies, looking fine sometimes while looking a bit boosted during others. I found tonal shifts to be not at all smooth, at least in comparison to the other presentations in the set, and the image is given a very flat look. This can also limit shadow details.

In all it looks bad and Iím really bewildered by what happened here. Why did they use this older master instead of the one BFI used for their Blu-ray release? It just doesnít look good.

5/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

Though presented in lossless 1.0 PCM mono the sound also doesnít offer any upgrade over the old DVD edition, at least as far as I can tell. The audio is still edgy and flat, music is still distorted, and there is evident background noise. Itís not very good

5/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Germany Year Zero comes available exclusively in Criterionís War Trilogy box set. Supplements are spread out over the three discs in the set but this review will be specific to those available on Germany Year Zero. Since they are the same as what was on the DVD Iím going yet again be very lazy and pretty much copy from my review of the DVD.

There is yet another introduction by Roberto Rossellini, filmed for a 1963 French television program showing Rosselliniís films. In this one Rossellini explains how this film completes his canvas of the trilogy, and how he had a desire to show Germany in their tragedy. He also recalls his trip to Berlin for the first time after the war. At 4-minutes itís the longest and probably the most interesting intro by the director found on the set.

Italian Credits and Prologue shows the alternate 3-minute opening for the film. Criterion has chosen to present the German version of the film on the DVD, with German credits and prologue, but this feature presents the Italian version of the credits and prologue which is a little different. I would guess since Criterion is presenting this in this fashion that Rossellini prefers the German version, though I canít say this is noted anywhere.

Roberto Rossellini is the big feature on here, a 65-minute documentary about the man and his career, hosted by Carlo Lizzani, who worked as assistant director on Germany Year Zero. It begins as a typical biography covering his early life but then moves quickly to his film career. It goes over his early films and then concentrates a bit more attention on his war trilogy, Germany Year Zero specifically, with Lizzani recalling the production. It moves on to his affair with Ingrid Bergman but chooses to focus more on the films they made together rather than the scandal surrounding it, even providing footage of Bergman talking about working with Rossellini and the differences between making one of his films and your typical Hollywood film. The documentary then covers his television period and then mentions some unfinished projects that he never got around to before his death. Itís an excellent documentary, featuring interviews with Martin Scorsese and Isabella Rossellini, along with archive clips with Francois Truffaut and Ingrid Bergman. What I most liked about the feature is that it focused mainly on Rosselliniís career and not a lot out of that, except maybe for a small portion on the death of his son, Romano, which led to the development of Germany Year Zero. An excellent documentary and one certainly worth viewing.

Letters from the Front: Carlo Lizzani on Germany Year Zero is a 23-minute segment of a podium discussion with Lizanni. As mentioned in the last paragraph, Lizanni worked as assistant director on Germany Year Zero, though only because Federico Fellini was unavailable. Here he reads a couple of letters he wrote while working on the film, first one he wrote before leaving to work on the production and then another while shooting in Berlin. He interrupts himself occasionally to explain the context of the letters. I wasnít sure how this feature would be but I actually rather enjoyed it. Although itís an odd way of doing so it actually offers some great insight into the production and works as a fairly decent making-of in its own way. Itís also fairly funny and entertaining oddly enough, especially since someone reading letters as a feature doesnít sound all that enthralling. A wonderful treat and a great find.

And again we get an interview with Adriano Aprŗ, who offers an analysis on the film and how it ties in with his other films in the trilogy. While Iím not sure on a couple of things heís trying to present itís an okay bit, though works best when he breaks down the final actions of the filmís protagonist.

Also found here is an 8-minute interview with directors Paolo and Vittorio Taviani, who discuss how the films Paisan and Germany Year Zero influenced them, and when they eventually met Rossellini. Itís a nice interview, especially as the two recall the impact Paisan had on them (I always like it when a filmgoer recalls the moment they realized a film could be more than what they initially thought it could be.)

The disc then concludes with a rather bizarre feature, and one I sort of question being included. Called Roberto and Roswitha itís a text essay by Thomas Meder that attempts to answer why Rossellini decided to make a film in Germany. He mentions other theories (that probably seem more likely) but presents the theory that Rossellini made the film in Germany for his then-mistress Roswitha Schmidt, who was German. He presents a brief history of the two and then, in a bit of a ďconspiracy theoryĒ sort of way, starts to present evidence that she was the reason Rossellini made the film in Germany. While thereís some interesting items such as photos (and a rather cruel breakup letter from Rossellini) I donít really get why this is here or why this should even be an issue. I guess itís worth reading through for the few interesting tidbits but if it wasnít included I doubt many would have missed it. In fact Iím somewhat surprised it is here: Criterion has been usually dropping these text only features for their Blu-ray upgrades so the fact it was carried over is really a bit of a minor miracle.

Outside of that last feature the rest of the supplements are solid and even on its own it would be a strong release in this regard.

9/10

CLOSING

This is such a puzzling disc. Though Iím glad they did port all of the extras over from the DVD Iím beyond puzzled as to why they are using an older master for the film instead of using the new restoration that even the BFI used for their own release. This looked fine enough on DVD but it does not translate well to Blu-ray and looks like a mess, and it doesnít even look like further restoration was even done to it. An incredible disappointment.




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